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Off-Duty Cop Acquitted Of Gun, Assault Charges In Petaluma Sushi Restaurant Brawl

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SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – A former San Rafael police officer was acquitted Friday morning in Sonoma County Superior Court of assault charges stemming from a fight outside a Petaluma sushi restaurant in which he was accused of pointing a gun at two men.

One of the two men who claimed they were assaulted by off-duty police Cpl. Michael Augustus last year called his acquittal Friday morning “a miscarriage of justice.”

“I’m absolutely shocked that somebody who is a police officer can hit somebody in a restaurant, then pull a gun while he’s drunk and get away with it,” said Brian Delaney, 52, of Petaluma. “I’m almost speechless.”

The 44-year-old Augustus, a 16-year veteran of the San Rafael Police Department, was facing two misdemeanor charges of assault with a firearm and one misdemeanor charge of exhibiting a weapon on Dec. 31, 2010, outside the Kabuki Restaurant in Petaluma.

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges as felonies but they were reduced to misdemeanors after a preliminary hearing. An additional felony charge of threatening to commit a crime was dismissed.

Augustus, who was fired by the San Rafael Police Department after the incident, declined to comment on the verdict.

Defense attorney Christopher Shea said his client mistakenly thought one of the alleged victims, Gary Hendricks, was his former brother-in-law when he patted him on the shoulder inside the restaurant.

“It was a gregarious contact. There was no challenge to fight,” Shea said.

Hendricks then assaulted Augustus outside the restaurant, Shea said. Delaney came outside the restaurant and both men backed off when Augustus drew his gun, Shea said.

“It looked like Delaney wanted to fight,” Shea said.

Augustus testified he showed the gun for around five seconds, then hurried away to find his wife and stepson and go home. Petaluma police arrested him near his home.

Delaney gave a different account outside the courtroom Friday morning.

“He had his gun pointed at my chest. He could have killed me,” Delaney said.

He said Augustus struck Hendricks hard on the back inside the restaurant and called him an obscene name. Delaney said Augustus was slurring his words.

Delaney said he followed Augustus outside the restaurant to break up a possible fight and saw Hendricks and Augustus pushing and shoving.

Hendricks backed up when Augustus took out his gun, Delaney said.

“When I saw it, I backed up,” Delaney said.

Shea said the jury had issues with the alleged victims’ credibility. He said Augustus will try to get his job back on the San Rafael Police Department.

“We’ll see if he’s still allowed to carry a weapon. I object to that,” Delaney said.

“To be able to pull a gun on someone who is unarmed is astonishing to me. I wholeheartedly question the judicial system,” Delaney said.

Deputy District Attorney Scott Jamar, who tried the case with fellow prosecutor Tashawn Sanders, said, “The jury has spoken.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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