The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a $195,000 settlement Tuesday, July 13, in a lawsuit filed by a teenager who was involved in a conflict with a gun-wielding Orange County sheriff’s deputy in a San Clemente skate park two years ago.
Max Chance III, the son of a former Orange County sheriff’s sergeant, filed the lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court in March. Deputy Michael Thalken, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Orange County were named as defendants in the suit, which alleged negligence, assault and battery, civil rights violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The board voted 4-0 to approve the settlement. Supervisor Katrina Foley abstained from voting because her firm has accepted referral from the attorneys who handled the suit, County Counsel Leon Page said when announcing the settlement.
“The family is pleased that this chapter in their son’s life has come to an end and that some justice was served,” said Eric Traut, the attorney who represented the Chance family in the lawsuit.
Chance, then 16 and living with his family in San Juan Capistrano, went to a skate park in San Clemente the evening of Oct. 12, 2019, with a friend. He was enjoying a band playing at the park when Thalken, who was off-duty at the time, confronted the band about the noise, according to the lawsuit.
Thalken was at a nearby Little League baseball diamond and apparently wanted the band to stop performing, according to the lawsuit. The suit alleged he “appeared angry and possibly intoxicated.”
One of the group’s members “mimicked the drunk-like walk” of Thalken as he bellowed, “Where’s the tough guy,” the lawsuit alleged.
As Thalken confronted the teen mocking him, Chance told the youth to back up, according to the lawsuit.
Chance put up his skateboard “to defend against a potential assault” from Thalken, who had not told the group he was a deputy, according to the plaintiff.
Thalken tried to grab Chance’s wrist and said, ‘Get on your knees or I will shoot you in the (expletive) face,” the lawsuit alleged. “He still did not identify himself as law enforcement as he brandished and pointed his handgun at (Chance’s) face.”
The teen “complied, while others pleaded with Deputy Thalken to stop what he was doing,” according to the complaint.
Cellphone videos captured the conflict and were aired in news reports.
Thalken eventually “identified himself as law enforcement,” and said “You are coming with me to the parking lot,” according to the lawsuit. It alleged that the deputy returned the weapon to his jacket pocket and argued with other witnesses.
Thalken told responding deputies that the group of kids “were the aggressors and that (Chance) had swung his skateboard at him,” according to the lawsuit. “Of course, both claims were false and refuted by video evidence.”
Chance’s father, who had previously worked with Thalken as a rookie before the sergeant retired, called Thalken at the scene, and the defendant told him that “the kids were douche bags with a mob mentality,” the lawsuit alleged.
Thalken told Chance’s father that he pulled out his gun because Chance “went at me with a skateboard. They were all crowding around me,” the lawsuit alleges.
Orange County sheriff’s deputies presented a case for criminal charges to prosecutors, but the District Attorney’s Office declined to file a case, said Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
After an internal review, Thalken was disciplined, but state law prevents the release of any details of the discipline, Braun said.
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