Mar 232016

Documents show all 11 police officers at the scene “forgot” to activate their body cameras

On November 12, 2015, two Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies were captured on surveillance video beating a suspect in San Francisco. The video was provided to the San Francisco Public Defender, which published the video on YouTube on November 13, 2015:

The two deputies shown in the video, Paul Wieber, and Luis Santamaria, wrote up their descriptions of the incident four days after arresting the suspect, later identified as Stanislav Petrov. Other deputies, including Shawn Osborne, William Adams, John Malizia, Joshua Miller, Marc PetriniThomas Sterling, and David Taylor, wrote up their incident reports on the same day.

On November 16, 2015, I filed a request for the arrest report, booking photograph and any body camera video from the arrest. In a response dated November 19, 2015, the Alameda County Sheriff denied my request, stating “Your request is denied per California Government Code sections 6254(f).” On February 15, 2016, I filed a second request for the booking photograph and incident report. In its response dated March 18, 2016, the Alameda County County Sheriff’s Office provided the incident report, but not a booking photograph.

In his write-up, Wieber states that after he tackled Petrov, “Petrov used his arms and shoulders to attempt to push himself up from the ground. I felt my entire body rise and I continued to slide forward. Failing to maintain control of Petrov, I punched him approximately two times in the right side of his face to subdue him.” The video, however, appears to show Petrov in a passive and prone position, with Wieber punching him twice, quickly followed by Santamaria striking Petrov at least five times with a baton.

Other deputies corroborated the story line that Petrov resisted arrest. Matthew Skidgel’s report states “Petrov resisted the efforts put forth by the patrol Deputies to affect his arrest and force was used to overcome his resistance.” Joshua Miller’s report stated that he saw “…Deputies SantaMaria and Wieber fighting with Petrov as he was violently pushing his body from side to side and moving his arms around as though he was trying to hit the officers.” Miller also struck Petrov with his baton. David Taylor’s report noted, “Petrov was bleeding from his head and he complained of pain to his head and hands.” There were no other observations of Petrov’s injuries. More than a week after his arrest, Petrov remained in the hospital and had metal rods and plates inserted into his arms.

Santamaria’s description of the incident closely mirrors that of Wieber, “As Deputy Wieber stood up, Petrov started to get up. Fearing that Petrov was going to assault Deputy Wieber, I removed my collapsible baton. I struck Petrov several times on his upper left arm to gain his compliance.” The description concludes, “As the Deputies arrived I was so fatigued I stepped away and let them secure Petrov. After the encounter I was exhausted and dizzy. I felt as if I were going to vomit from overexerting myself during the struggle with Petrov. As a result of the altercation I sustained an injury to my left exterior bicep.”

Wieber describes his own physical condition using nearly the same language as Santamaria, “I was physically exhausted and began to feel dizzy from over exertion.”

As a result of injuries caused by baton blows and punches, Petrov was transported to San Francisco General Hospital and surgery was performed. In his report, Darrin Shelton stated that Petrov was spitting blood, so he stepped on Petrov’s left shoulder blade to prevent him from spitting blood on any of the deputies. Shelton observed that Petrov had broken fingers on his left hand and head and facial lacerations. Robert Griffith noted, “Petrov appeared to have been bleeding from his head.”

Two of the other officers noted Petrov’s driving skills in their reports. Santamaria stated, “I noticed Petrov displaying driving skills and techniques that area [sic] taught to us in the police academy and during in-service training.” Taylor reported “As I observed the suspect’s vehicle during the pursuit, I was struck by his skillful driving and what I could only speculate was a level of extreme confidence and/or desperation…I believe the suspect was likely a sophisticated threat.”

None of the 11 deputies involved remembered to activate their Vievu body cameras:

I checked with Deputies Miller, Osborne, Griffith, Sterling, Petrini, Shelton, Malizia, Nguyen, Cota, Wieber and SantaMaria. I also checked with Sergeant Adams and Sergeant Taylor. None of these individuals had activated their Vie-Vu cameras during the incident.

Neither Wieber nor Santamaria noted any injuries to Petrov in their incident reports.

On February 12, 2016, the Contra Costa Times reported that the Alameda County District Attorney said that Petrov would not be charged.

Incident reports (Source documents):

Subsequent news coverage:
Document shows Alameda Co. Sheriff’s report on beating, KTVU
Alameda County sheriff’s deputies detail what led to chase, beating, Contra Costa Times
Adachi Accuses Deputies Allegedly Involved In Brutal Suspect Beating Of Cover Up, CBS SF
Deputies in SF beating video say they feared for their safety, SFGate
Public Defender: Deputies Involved in Beating Lied; Must Be Charged, SF Weekly
S.F. Public Defender: Alameda Deputies’ Reports on Violent S.F. Arrest a ‘Legal Fiction’
Fired Alameda County Deputies Will Stand Trial for S.F. Alley Beating

Edited to add: On May 10, 2016, Luis Santamaria and Paul Wieber were charged with assault under color of authority, battery with serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon.

News coverage of the charges:
Alameda County Deputies Face Criminal Charges in Suspect’s Beating, KQED
California deputies charged in beating captured on video, CBS News