Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against SFPD For Alleged Beating Of Oakland Man

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An Oakland man, who can be seen on video being beaten by San Francisco police officers during his arrest in late 2015, has filed a civil rights complaint in federal court against members of the San Francisco Police Department.

In May 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer threw out the gun charges that were filed against Brandon Simpson, a 28-year-old African-American man. Breyer also accused an arresting officer of perjury.

Breyer said police Officer Nicholas M. Buckley’s sworn testimony directly contradicted a surveillance video that captured the arrest.

 

The complaint alleges that Simpson was unlawfully arrested and beat around 11 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2015 on the sidewalk at the intersection of Eddy and Taylor streets in the city’s Tenderloin District. The complaint states Simpson and others were playing a game of craps when the patrol car approached.

Read the full complaint (.pdf) here

Graphic video of the incident that was posted to YouTube in May 2016 by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office shows a patrol car quickly coming up to the sidewalk and the officers approaching a group of people standing there.

The complaint alleges that there had been no reports or complaints prior to the officers’ arrival. The complaint alleges that officers Nicholas Buckley and John Fergus were the first officers to the scene.

As the group of people began to disperse, Buckley allegedly grabbed Simpson from behind. The two officers, along with Officers Andrew Clifford and Elizabeth Morse who arrived a few seconds later, tackled Simpson to the ground, according to the complaint.

The complaint states — and the video appears to show — the officers punching Simpson as he lies on the ground. The video shows one officer throwing at least seven punches.

The complaint accuses the involved officers of “malicious, wanton and oppressive” conduct.

According to the complaint, officers used excessive force and justified it with a “completely fabricated story about their encounter with Mr. Simpson.”

Officers claimed in police reports and then during the federal prosecution proceedings that Simpson ran, fought and actively resisted being brought into custody, the complaint states.

The officers alleged that they found a gun concealed in a sock in the vicinity of the arrest, but Simpson denied that the gun belonged to him.

Judge Breyer recommended that Buckley be disciplined for his misconduct, according to the complaint.

Oakland-based civil rights attorneys Adante Pointer and John Burris are representing Simpson. Pointer described the case to CBS San Francisco on Thursday as “extraordinary” not only because a federal judge recommended Buckley be disciplined, but because the incident was caught on video.

Pointer described the incident as “an egregious display of abusive power” and said that without the video, Simpson would likely have taken a plea deal that included a lengthy prison sentence.

Simpson is demanding a jury trial and seeks punitive damages for the physical injury, loss of wages and emotional stress he suffered.

The San Francisco Police Department did not immediately respond to CBS San Francisco’s request for comment on the complaint, on whether the department has investigated the incident and whether Buckley still works for the department.

Update: 1/13/17: A spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department told CBS San Francisco that Buckley is still with the department and that an Internal Affairs investigation into the incident remains open.

By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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