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Victim of Police Brutality Speaks Out

DHS Police face serious lawsuits

DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. - "I was basically pleading for my life, when I was sitting in the Police Department."

Jamal White thinks the Desert Hot Springs Police Department is a haunted house. The last time he went through the gates of Desert Hot Springs PD, in 2005, he wore handcuffs.

"This is a place that brings back a lot of bad memories," White says.

White was on parole that February and hadn't checked in with his parole office. He admits he got angry when Desert Hot Springs Police Sgt. Anthony Sclafani told him he'd be going back to prison.

"It was like a snowball effect," he reflects. "Everything just escalated."

During the incident that day, Sclafani pulled his squad car over, took out his pepper spray, and directed the blast right at White in the back seat.

"The pepper spray was in my mouth, and in my face, and in my eyes, and I was gagging for air," White says.

When the two got to the station, things just got worse.

"I had brought it to other officers that I had been pepper-sprayed when I was sitting the back of a vehicle, and I was told to be quiet," claims White. "And when I didn't listen to the command, I was shot with a Taser."

Court documents obtained by CBS Local 2 show "[White] did not pose any threat, and [Sclafani] tased him merely out of anger because he insulted [him]. [White] was writhing on the ground and moaning in pain."

But when White couldn't get up, because he remained handcuffed behind his back, "[Sclafani] again fired his taser, this time in dart mode, striking [White], causing his muscles to convulse, and resulting in incapacitation."

Unbeknownst to White, the next day, nearly the same type of incident happened again. This time, a woman named Angelica Vargas was under arrest for driving under the influence. When she was taken to the station, too drunk to stand up, Sclafani pepper-sprayed her, and tased her multiple times.

White never knew about the second case involving Sclafani, but he told the story of what happened to him, over and over.

"Everything was pretty much a runaround," he said. "Nobody believed my story. It was to the point of where I was being dishonest. And why would the police do this to you if you didn't do anything?"

But the wheels of justice did turn, although slowly.

"Around 2008, it was brought to my attention that this not only happened to me, but other people, and it was a relief," White says.

FBI agents wanted to hear White's story. The U.S. Attorney's office filed two felony counts of deprivation of rights under color of law against Sclafani.

The FBI also brought charges against his supervisor, Lt. David Henderson, in an unrelated, but similar case. While Henderson took a plea deal, Sclafani rolled the dice in a trial and a jury found him guilty.

After Sclafani heard he'd go to prison for four years, he turned around in court and apologized to White.

"(The) apology helped. And the punishment was justified," says White.

White never knew what finally go the attention of authorities until early July. That's when the city of Desert Hot Springs got sued, along with some at Desert Hot Springs PD. The suit claims former Officer Andrea Heath got driven out of the department when she went to the feds with allegations about Sclafani and Henderson, and a pattern of abuse of suspects in custody.

About Heath's actions, White said "I think it was a honorable act. Not all police are bad guys, and not all police are trying to cover things up. There's some good people out there... Thank you for helping me get justice."

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