A former Palo Alto police sergeant who was placed on administrative leave earlier this year after he was captured on video striking a gay man suspected of driving on a suspended license has retired, according to state officials.
Faced with a federal lawsuit and intense public scrutiny, former Sgt. Wayne Benitez retired from the department on Sept. 30 and began collecting a monthly pension of $9,866 — earning him an annual retirement package of about $118,600, according to Amy Morgan, information officer for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
Benitez joined the city’s police department in 2000 and previously served as union president of the Peace Officers Association.
In April, attorneys representing Palo Alto resident Gustavo Alvarez filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, which is still ongoing, against Palo Alto, its police department and six of its employees, including Officer Christopher Conde, Officer Thomas Alan Destefano Jr. and Sgt. Benitez.
Alvarez’s suit claimed that on Feb. 17, 2018, the officers kicked down his front door, dragged him out of his house, slammed his head against a car windshield causing him to bleed and arrested him without probable cause because he was gay, according to the 77-page complaint.
Alvarez spent two weeks in the Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence, driving with a suspended or revoked license and resisting arrest. But all of those charges were later dismissed by the Santa Clara County Superior County due to insufficient evidence.