SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Francisco 49ers player Chris Culliver drove recklessly in San Jose in March, “doing several donuts” before colliding with a bicyclist and a car, then used racial slurs and brandished brass knuckles, according to plaintiffs in a lawsuit.
Marc Santos, Angelica Cortez and Santos’ three children filed suit against Culliver in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose on April 15 stemming from an incident where Culliver tried to drive away from an alleged hit-and-run accident, according to the suit.
Culliver was arrested by San Jose police on March 28 after witnesses claimed he drove his Ford Mustang into a bike rider, who was not seriously hurt, and collided with a car holding people who then pursued him after seeing him run into the bicyclist, police said.
The 49ers cornerback pleaded not guilty in criminal court in San Jose on April 11 to felony possession of brass knuckles and two misdemeanor hit-and-run charges. The next hearing on the criminal case is scheduled for next Wednesday.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who include Santos’ three children, claim they witnessed Culliver’s behavior before, during and after the hit-and-run with the bicyclist.
They accuse Culliver of being “violent, reckless, oppressive,” and “by way of self-centered arrogance believed he could act with impunity in the petty pursuit for the rush of a cheap thrill.”
According to the suit, at about 10 a.m. March 28, the plaintiffs saw Culliver driving his Mustang “doing a burn-out power brake,” or spinning of wheels, while behind another vehicle on westbound Tully Road at the intersection of South Seventh Street.
The location of Culliver’s car at the time was in front of the county fairgrounds, where he planned to be the host of a competitive dog show, for a breed of pit bull known as American Bully, on April 5, according to the suit.
After spinning his wheels, Culliver “proceeded to operate his vehicle in a deliberate and reckless manner which included peeling out, doing several donuts, striking several medians, coming to rest facing on-coming traffic and striking a bicyclist,” the suit alleges.
Culliver then collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle while trying to escape the accident scene, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs drove after Culliver’s Mustang, called police and then observed Culliver’s car at the end of a cul-de-sac.
They stopped their car to block Culliver from fleeing the area until police arrived, but Culliver tried to get by them, the suit claims.
“Defendant’s response included: lunging his vehicle several times towards Plaintiffs; holding his hand inside a bag and pointing it at (them) in a manner that suggested he was holding a gun; shouting profane and hostile epithets; threatening to hurt Plaintiffs if they did not get out of the way; and charging Plaintiffs while brandishing brass knuckles.”
Among the epithets allegedly used by Culliver included a derogatory term referring to Hispanics, the suit alleges.
Culliver’s Ford had dealer plates on it, he was permitted to drive even though his driver’s license had been suspended and the car’s owner therefore “unreasonably entrusted it to Defendant,” according to the suit.
Culliver’s dog show was being held to benefit the Chris Culliver Foundation and his public relations representative, Theodore Palmer, who promoted the show, was inside Culliver’s car during the incidents on March 28, according to Braid Pezzaglia, the plaintiff’s San Jose attorney.
Pezzaglia claimed that Culliver had brandished the brass knuckles at Marc Santos’ 15-year-old son.
The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages, alleging assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and “negligent entrustment of a dangerous instrumentality.”
In addition to Culliver, the suit included unnamed “Does” as potential future defendants.
Pezzaglia said that Culliver does not yet have an attorney to represent him in the suit.
Bob Lange, a spokesman for the San Francisco 49ers, could not be reached for comment.
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