Another SF Drug Case Dismissed After Video Surfaces

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Public Defender Jeff Adachi Wednesday released to the public yet another videotape depicting officers allegedly mishandling a search and arrest of a man who police claimed had committed a felony sale of marijuana.

The video shows three officers dressed in plainclothes—identified by Adachi’s office as Sgt. Thomas Watts and officers Michael Zhang and Michele Martinez—searching the apartment building of a 23-year-old San Francisco resident who lives in the city’s Outer Richmond neighborhood.

A judge dismissed Wednesday a preliminary hearing of McLaren Wenzell after reviewing security footage showing the March 1 search of Wenzell’s apartment located near 33rd Avenue and Geary Boulevard.

The three officers’ badges cannot be seen in footage of the three standing in the building’s garage, nor are their badges seen later in additional footage of them roaming hallways on the building’s third floor in search of drug activity.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

But in police reports submitted to the court, Officer Zhang said the three officers had stars exposed on their “outer most clothing.”

Zhang also said Watts asked for Wenzell’s consent to search his home.

In a news conference Wednesday at Adachi’s office, Wenzell said he never gave police consent to search his apartment.

“They tried to coerce their way into my apartment,” Wenzell said.
“I told them no.”

Wenzell’s attorney Robert Amparan, who also attended the news conference, added that even if there was consent, “The consent itself was coerced.”

Amparan said, “You can’t get consent when you have your hand on your gun saying, ‘No matter what you do, I’m goin’ in anyway.’”

He pointed out a portion of footage that appears as though one of the officers is reaching for a gun on a waistband as the officer crosses the apartment’s threshold.

Adachi said police lied about wearing badges and lied about the manner that they entered Wenzell’s apartment, and that the officers have done so without significant penalties from their superiors.

“It’s one thing if they actually have information they’re using to generate probable cause,” Adachi said. “In this case, they are generating the information that they are relying upon.”

Wenzell’s case is one of more than 50 that have been dismissed in recent weeks due in part to several videos released by Adachi’s office that show conflicting information between police reports and what’s seen in the footage.

Adachi said he released the latest recording to District Attorney George Gascon’s office prior to showing it in Wenzell’s hearing, but Gascon’s lawyers decided to pursue the charges anyway.

Gascon’s spokeswoman Erica Terry Derryck said their attorneys disagree with the court’s dismissal Wednesday and will continue to pursue the case against Wenzell.

“We’ve ordered transcripts to determine what, if any, appellate action we can take,” she said.

Gascon announced on March 11 that he was turning over the investigation into allegations of police misconduct to federal authorities.

The department’s Southern Station has had all plainclothes operations suspended as a result of similar videos released from Adachi’s office showing potentially mishandled drug busts.

San Francisco police spokesman Sgt. Mike Andraychak said he could not comment on whether any action will be taken against the three officers depicted in the latest footage.

He said that Wednesday afternoon was the first the Police Department had seen of the video.

Police Chief Jeff Godown mentioned in a related conference earlier this month that the public defender has made operations “very difficult” by not immediately submitting footage to police of the drug busts.

“It makes it very difficult for us to conduct the investigation if I have to watch the TV to find out what’s happening with my Police Department,” he said.

The officers named in earlier allegations were Richard Yick, Arshad Razzak, Arthur Madrid, Robert Forneris, Raul Elias, Raymond Kane, Samuel Christ and Gregory Buhagiar.

All came from the plainclothes unit at the Police Department’s Southern Station and have been reassigned to administrative duties during the investigation.

Andraychak said he could not comment on what would happen to the department’s Richmond Station in light of Wenzell’s case dismissal, but Godown had tentatively planned a news conference for Thursday morning to discuss the incident.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

  • raven

    just another dirty cop in San Fransisco nothing more SFPD has had dirty cop’s for last 30years and need to be cleaned out and fire this nothing new these dirty cop has been doing this for many years

    • raven

      Police Chief Jeff Godown no better then his dirty ass cops in his department that need to be fired also


    Just remember, from the cops point of view their all fine upstanding officers of law, maintaining the highest of standards. And every time one of these fine upstanding officers gets caught lying,commiting a crime, IT’S NEVER THEIR FAULT, as some rational is given to justify their failures. Trusting cops to do the legal process is more of a joke every day and interacting with cops can be dangerous to to your legal rights and your freedoms. LASTLY NEVER OPEN YOUR DOOR TO A COP, BECAUSE THE LEGAL PRECENT (IN CALIFORNIA) IS THAT YOU ARE OPENING THE DOOR TO LET THEM IN . RDH

    • Mack

      Agreed Robert. No matter how you feel about the issue this kid was obviously dealing drugs. What single person needs to have over 14 ounces of weed? I mean I realize the law “allows” that kind of possession but lets be honest this guy was obviously dealing. Yeah his case may have been dismissed but read between the lines.This poor schmuck may have gotten off but his name and more importantly the Wenzell family’s prestigious name is tarnished forever. Let’s see what I take away from this article as a prospective employer or authoritative figure… McLaren is and finds possession of 14 ounces of weed acceptable, has a club card, and smoke weed. None of those things are too outlandish but with all the hard working good natured people in the world would you really want to hire this 23 year old punk?

  • SFPD Chief Defends Officers’ Actions In Videotaped Drug Bust « CBS San Francisco

    […] Wednesday, a judge dismissed the the felony marijuana case against 23-year-old McLaren Wenzell after reviewing security video footage showing the March 1 search of Wenzell’s apartment […]

  • SFPD Chief Defends Officers’ Actions In Videotaped Drug Bust | All of California

    […] during a preliminary court hearing Wednesday, a judge dismissed the case of McLaren Wenzell, 23, after reviewing security footage showing the Marc… located near 33rd Avenue and Geary Boulevard in the city’s Outer Richmond […]

  • San Francisco Mayor Warns New Police Chief Announcement Still Weeks Away « CBS San Francisco

    […] total of 83 drug and robbery cases have been dismissed due to the videos, which appeared to reveal contradictions between police reports and what is seen […]

  • raven

    mack guess can’t say that now huh since there new video’s with same dirtycops ya don’t know what you talking about stfu there dirtysumsucking cops and most the TL know that

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