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Man beaten by Hallandale Beach police seeks $2 million from city

Police say Daniel James Dunkelberger, 27, was resisting arrest

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – An attorney hired by a man who was beaten last week by two Hallandale Beach police officers held a news conference Monday, where he said his client is seeking $2 million in damages from the city.

Attorney Ronald Guralnick said he will ask the mayor for the settlement, but said, "This is a negotiation."

Guralnick said the demand letter won't be sent until the investigation is well underway, which is expected to take several months. 

He said a lawsuit will be filed if no settlement is reached.

According to a private investigator hired by the law firm, Daniel James Dunkelberger, 27, suffered a cut to the head during the incident and had to get six stitches to his knee.

"My client was terrified of these officers," Guralnick said. "He should not have been beaten like that."

Local 10 News reporter Carlos Suarez caught up with Dunkelberger outside his home Monday, where he acknowledged that he wished he handled things differently during the arrest, but claimed that the officers had already begun hitting him before they used the Taser. 

"I'm in pain," he said. "I've been sore. I feel hurt, you know? I'm also traumatized, too.

"I've got stitches in my knee. This knee was swelled up. It's black and blue. And then I have some gashes in my head. It's all bumped up. And then they tased me twice." 

Surveillance video and cellphone video captured the incident Wednesday at Max's Car Wash at 903 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd., east of Interstate 95. 

Dunkelberger, who police said was a theft suspect, is seen in the surveillance video being struck in the back of the head by one of the officers with a police baton before the three men appear to struggle on the ground, not in clear view of the camera.

Dunkelberger is then seen appearing to try to get away from the officers as one of them grabs him by the shirt.

Dunkelberger leaned against the police cruiser, putting his hands out and covering his head for a moment in defense before he was struck again with the police baton on the side of his head.

The officers, who were heard on the cellphone video telling Dunkelberger to get on the ground, struck him multiple times in the legs with their batons before Dunkelberger was eventually pushed to the ground.

The officers involved in the rough arrest were identified as Jaime Cerna, who has been with the department for 11 years, and Richard Allen, who has been with the department for 35 years. 

According to an arrest report, a man saw Dunkelberger reach into his car and steal a cellphone and charger. Police arrived moments later and said they stunned him with a Taser as he tried to run away.

The Hallandale Beach Police Department suspended both officers Thursday, but asked for patience while detectives "conduct a thorough and objective internal affairs investigation."

Authorities said they are working to obtain all surveillance video that may have captured the incident. 

Dunkelberger faces charges of burglary and resisting an officer without violence. Records show he has been arrested more than a dozen times since 2009, including on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

"The Hallandale Beach Police Department has an open and active internal affairs investigation underway," City Manager Roger Carlton said in a statement Monday. The City is respecting that process, which prohibits us from discussing the details of the case until it is concluded. Getting to the bottom of what happened, and whether it was in line with our policies and procedures, is our top priority. Both officers involved have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the case."