Print and Go Back Skateboarding [Print without images]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Skateboarders win civil suit in Portland

Brian Baca, frontside 180 over a rail in Portland, Ore.

In November of 2009, Portland, Ore. skateboarder Brian Baca and friend Clyde King were skating in Pioneer Square when they were assaulted by security guards after being asked to leave the spot they were skating at. Following the incident, footage of the assault went viral on the Web, and both Baca and King decided to sue all three guards and the company that employed them, Pacific Patrol Services (PPS), for a combined $1.35 million in damages, according to court records obtained by the Portland Mercury. Earlier this month, Baca and King settled for an undisclosed amount of money, bringing the ordeal to an end, and making Baca and King the first skateboarders to even win a civil suit against security guards. Recently, Baca sat down to discuss the incident, the legal hurdles experienced along the way and the eventual result. Back in November of 2009, you decided to go skate at night and try to film a trick at Pioneer Square in Portland, Ore.?
Baca: Yeah some friends and I were skating at the Department of Skateboarding and we randomly decided to go get a clip on this brick set at Pioneer square. I had it in my mind that I would bail a couple of nollies, then just try to stick one quick, get out of the cold weather and try to avoid getting the boot.

How long were you there before the security guards told you to leave?
We had been there for about ten minutes or so. After two or three rushed tries, the first security guard came up and told me to get the hell out of there. The security guard was being a jerk from the beginning -- he started to make fun of me right from the start.

Be honest, did you give these guys some lip for telling you to go skate somewhere else? Or were they jerks right from the start?
They were all jerks right from the start. I asked the guy nicely for one more try to test the waters and he wasn't into it at all. Before the other security got there, the first security guard and I had been talking from where I was getting speed from. He was at the top blocking the stairs with his arms crossed. At that point, I pretty much gave up and skated towards where he was to walk down the stairs and leave. As I did, he bumped into me with his shoulder when I walked past him. When I got to the bottom, my friends and I were kind of figuring out our next move and talking. The security guard, who hadn't said a word or even seen me on my board, started telling us to move on and that we were excluded from the square.

Baca, nosegrind pop out at the Stark School in Portland.

I remember you telling me these guys were shoving cameras in your face and taunting you?
Yeah, that was the guard who actually hit me after we had been kind of talking crap to each other. This guard was only, like, 22 at the time, and he was making fun of all of us too. We turned to leave and I felt something right next to my face -- he was trying to focus his busted little camera. I nicked it with the tail of my board and he freaked, instantly threw the camera down, and punched me in the face. That's when the 17 second or so altercation happened.

How did you guys end up fighting? Did you throw the first punch or did they?
He did. I came back at him and got all wrapped up with my buddy Clyde King. Clyde tried to grab the dude off of me after I got punched, and he got put in some UFC choke hold and dropped his skateboard right next to the guard attacking me. The guard let me go when he heard the sound of Clyde's board by his feet, and right when I looked up he was already bending over to grab the board. Then it was lights out for about half a second. I tried to deflect his board with mine, but I was a little too late and fell to my tailbone... When I realized that he had hit me over the head, I was mad. I got up for more and got a little slap, and maybe a punch before I got attacked by a third guard, who had witnessed a little of what was happening. The new guard ran into us like a bull -- throwing knees into me and forcing me into the street. The original guard who talked to me on top of the stairs had been yanking on the guards, urging them to stop. The guard who hit me was unlicensed and had no training at all. It was his second day on the job. Maybe that guy's not meant to be a security guard.

Why did you guys leave the spot after the security guard hit you with Clyde's board? I'm guessing you didn't think the local police would see your side of the story?
Exactly. It was pretty intense, and definitely not the usual run-in when you go skating in Portland. We were all kind of scared, to be honest with you. When the Police showed up that night after doing some interviews, they said that if we hadn't left they would have arrested the guards for being the aggressors, and not us. But somehow I'm not buying that story.

Then the TransWorld Skateboarding site posted the video footage from the fight, local news stations starting covering the story, newspapers starting calling you for your side of the story and for a minute you almost got into some legal trouble for the altercation. How did you get to be such big news?
Yeah, before "Right Foot Forward" came out, I had sent some clips of Pete Eldridge to Chris Ray that my friend had filmed when he was in town. I met Chris from trips he was on while he was in the Northwest. I told him what happened and asked if he wanted me to send that clip as well so he could watch it. Five minutes or so go by then he responds saying he wants to put the clip up, then local news stations picked up the stories and tried to get Chris to comment on where the footage was from. He later told me that the video footage we sent him has had the most hits on the TransWorld site even to this date.

Baca, fence wallride on rough concrete in Portland.

I remember you saying that you and Clyde King were both worried about having criminal assault charges brought against you. I remember all the local news stories were spinning the story and footage saying that you two actually assaulted the officers.
Yeah, they picked the story up and had reporters down at the scene saying eleven street kids were involved, and that the security guards were out-numbered and just defending themselves. They also were trying to figure out who we were. Portland is pretty small, so I thought someone would recognize me and the cops would show up at my door. I was pretty spooked, just trying to wait till it all went away.

How did you go about getting a lawyer?
I had been doing summer skate camps (as a skate instructor) at the Department of Skateboarding prior to the incident and ended up meeting two cool little rippers named Luke and Jake Rossiter. They had heard what happened to me and told their mother, Wendy Chung, who happened to be a lawyer who handles these kind of cases. She introduced me to Tony Schwartz and they both let me know they would do it for free and I decided to start the process.

How did the police handle the case when you were trying to press criminal charges?
Well, the first time I went to the police station after the incident, a detective tried to convince me that I didn't get hit in the head and I was blowing the situation out of proportion. He said we were in the wrong and I think he was just trying to scare me so I would drop the case. We showed him the DVD of the incident -- we had to walk all over the building trying to find even one of their crappy computers that would even play it and he wasn't very impressed... He told me to have all the people involved call him to give him statements. So later in the process we figure out that half of the statements weren't in the report the detective handed over to the D.A.. After we got denied on the criminal side of things, we figured out that the guard who hit me wasn't licensed and the company knew it the whole time. If we would have known that, we would have won the criminal case.

Didn't the city argue that Pioneer Square is highly illegal to skate even though they've had two skateboarding contests at that venue?
Yeah, it's hilarious. I skated in one of the contests at Pioneer Square after the incident, and the same company had their finest there. Someone gave one of them the mic and he was saying how hyped he was to be there. It was lame.

Also, even though the video footage clearly shows you being hit in the head by a skateboard, didn't the prosecution argue that you weren't hit in the head because the video footage was fake?
Yeah, that was the detective and original D.A. They thought we "edited it" like George Lucas or something. They both insisted I wasn't hit in the head and were trying to turn it around and say I had hit the security guard with my board.

What did you think would have happened if you were to have hit the security with your skateboard instead of him hitting you?
I would probably be in jail and that dude would probably still be a security guard instead of a farmer. He quit three days after the incident.

So after two years of fighting in court, you and Clyde King recently settled for undisclosed sum. Why did you decided to settle outside of court? I'm guessing after two years of court dates, you guys just wanted everything to be over with?
Yeah, that's just it. I really appreciate the work my counsel did to the fullest, but the stress was not only on me, but on them too. Life's too short. This is still a win for us! I'm hyped for sure.

I'm not sure if you're aware of this or not, but you guys are the first skateboarders to ever win a court case such as this. How do you feel about that?
I'm hyped! We hung in there for sure. It was definitely the representation we had, though. They put a lot of hard work into it, I just had to sit back. Plus I made two more good friends. Don't let anyone push you around!