Paul Gozaloff was posting campaign signs on Jan. 27, 2008, two days before the Florida Republican presidential primary, when he encountered Hollywood cops ticketing a driver near Johnson Street and State Road 7.
Worried the driver might be a homeless friend, Gozaloff pulled over to inquire. Gozaloff, who suffers from bipolar disorder, says the officers grew annoyed with his questions.
Thinking Gozaloff homeless, the cops beat him, kicked him, ground his face into the pavement and stood on his knee and ankle, bruising his ribs and cutting his head, knees and feet.
“They tackled me, smashing my head to the ground,” said Gozaloff, of Plantation. “I felt like Rodney King. They were kicking me from all directions. All five cops.”
Despite his injuries, arresting officers bypassed a hospital and took Gozaloff directly to jail where he spent a week until his wife posted the $1700 bond.
In their reports, the officers alleged Gozaloff, now 54, became irate, ground his own face into the pavement and kicked at them. They arrested him on charges of drug possession and obstructing a traffic stop.
But after hearing the officers testify in the criminal case, Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen said he believed Gozaloff and dismissed the criminal charges against him in December 2009.
After Hollywood police officials refused to investigate his allegations of excessive force, Gozaloff filed a federal lawsuit claiming police brutality and false arrest in January 2012.
The lawsuit accused five officers of attacking Gozaloff in a “shark-like feeding frenzy.” The officers named as defendants were 12-year veteran Joseph Siple, 36; 10-year veteran Alexander Chang, 34; nine-year veteran Matthew Petty, 41; 18-year veteran Travis Schuller, 45; and 19-year veteran William Cash, 50.
The lawsuit alleged all five officers filed false and misleading police reports and claimed Officer Siple planted a bag of Xanax pills on Gozaloff.
At the time of the incident, Siple alleged that officers yanked Gozaloff’s hands from his pockets and found rolling papers and three burnt marijuana cigarettes. Siple’s report says he later found a baggie of 11 Xanax pills in Gozaloff’s shorts pocket.
Police also claimed Gozaloff slammed his own head into the pavement repeatedly and attempted to punch officers before he was “escorted” to the ground.
Gozaloff called the officers’ versions of events fiction.
He said he never raised his voice or swung at anyone and he was not carrying a bag of Xanax. He said Siple waved a baggie at him while he was in the holding cell and said, “Have a good night, a**hole.”
Now, the city of Hollywood, FL has agreed to pay Gozaloff $240,000 to settle the matter, city documents show.
City commissioners signed off on the deal privately in early March and are expected to give formal approval April 15 during a public meeting at City Hall.
City and police officials have declined to comment on the case.