SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — District Attorney George Gascón announced late Tuesday morning that he would charge two Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies who were caught on camera beating a suspect in San Francisco’s Mission District last November.
Gascon said Deputies Luis Santamaria and Paul Weiber will be prosecuted for assault under cover of authority, assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious injury at the Tuesday press conference.READ MORE: 1 Dead, 2 Injured In Separate Falls During Phish Concert At Chase Center
Stanislav Petrov, 29, was beaten with metal batons by two deputies on a San Francisco street on Nov. 12 at the end of a car chase that began in unincorporated San Leandro.
The chase started in Castro Valley, continuing down I-580 and winding through city streets in Oakland before the Petrov headed to San Francisco on the Bay Bridge. Santamaria and Wieber were two of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office deputies who pursued Petrov over the bridge.
Once in San Francisco, Petrov drove through city streets at high speed, driving through red lights and driving the wrong way on one-way streets until he ran out of gas and crashed the stolen car at the corner of Stevenson Street and 14th Street.
According to court documents, Petrov abandoned the stolen car and ran from two deputies who pursued him down Stevenson Street and then Clinton Park. Santamaria and Wieber left their vehicle and continued their pursuit on foot. While on Clinton Park, Petrov slowed down and began to put his hands in the air just before being tackled by Wieber.
The two deputies then started to strike Petrov with their retractable service batons.
The investigation into the beating heated up after surveillance videos of the incident surfaced in mid-November.
Two separate videos capture Deputies Santamaria and Wieber beating Petrov with their batons over the course of 40 seconds, striking him at least 30 times. During the beating, Petrov is heard crying out and saying, “I’m sorry,” “Help me,” and “Oh my God.”
Gascón noted during the press conference Tuesday that in addition to the surveillance video clip provided to the public defender’s office, one of the deputies involved in the beating accidentally triggered his body camera, inadvertently filming a portion of the incident.
That video has not yet been released to the media.
The deputies stopped striking Petrov when other peace officers from multiple law enforcement agencies arrived and the suspect was arrested.
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“Policing that violates our constitutional rights damages the reputation of every person that wears the uniform, and it damages the public’s perception of those that are sworn to serve.” said Gascón in a press release. “When officers take the law into their own hands, they undermine the moral authority of the entire criminal justice system.”
Santamaria is a 14-year veteran of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, while Wieber has been with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for three years.
The two deputies are expected to surrender by the end of the day Wednesday, with bail set at $140,000 each.
Court documents outlined numerous injuries that Petrov sustained as a result of the assault, including a concussion, multiple broken bones in both hands, a mild traumatic brain injury, and deep lacerations to his head.
Petrov’s lawyers, who filed an administrative claim against Alameda County on his behalf last month, say he was hospitalized for 12 days, underwent extensive surgery and suffered permanent damage to his hands.
Petrov has been in federal custody since the FBI arrested him and Milagro Moraga, 24, at a house in the Visitacion Valley District of San Francisco on April 1.
The federal criminal complaint, issued under seal on April 1 and unsealed at a hearing Friday by U.S. Magistrate Sallie Kim, charges Petrov with three gun offenses and two drug counts.READ MORE: UPDATE: Alameda Businesses Fight Back Against Serial ADA Lawsuit Filer
The two drug charges are possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute it and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Moraga is also charged with those counts.
The three gun charges, which Petrov faces alone, are being an ex-felon in possession of a gun; possession of a gun in relation to drug trafficking; and being an ex-felon in possession of a gun after three previous convictions for serious drug offenses or violent felonies.
In an affidavit filed with the complaint, FBI Agent Jenny Feng alleged that FBI agents and San Francisco police officers searching the house at 23 Teddy Avenue on March 8 found a Ruger pistol, several small bags containing a total of 5 ounces of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in a room in which Petrov and Moraga were found sleeping.
That search was carried out in connection with “a cyber crime investigation unrelated to Petrov and Moraga,” Feng wrote.
Petrov and Moraga were briefly detained but not arrested on March 8, and Petrov said he had been “living in and out of the house for over two months,” according to Feng.
Feng wrote that Petrov was previously convicted of five felonies and three misdemeanors in state courts.
The felonies were two counts of transporting methamphetamine for sale in San Francisco in 2006 and 2010; two counts of recklessly evading peace officers in San Mateo in 2007; and possessing narcotics for sale in Palo Alto in 2014, for which he is currently on probation.
Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern said it’s the first time since 1969 that deputies in his department have been charged with using excessive force.
Ahern said his office completed its investigation a long time ago into the incident in which Petrov allegedly rammed the patrol cars and forwarded its report to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, but no charges have been filed against Petrov so far.
A spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office wasn’t available to comment on whether the office is still reviewing the matter six months later or has made a decision not to file charges against Petrov.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi said he is “relieved” that charged were filed and the person who came forward with the video is “the real hero in this incident.”
Adachi said the alleged beating of Petrov “is a very serious situation” and the filing of the charges against the two deputies “sends a message to law enforcement about what is going to be tolerated.”
Attorney Michael Haddad, who filed a complaint against Alameda County seeking damages for Petrov for the injuries he suffered in the incident, said, “Clearly these charges are appropriate and powerful and it’s high time that these deputies were held criminally accountable.”
Haddad said the civil case “is extremely strong” and will go forward no matter what the outcome is of the criminal charges against Santamaria and Wieber.
Santamaria’s lawyer Michael Rains said in a statement, “I am confident that the actions of Deputy Santamaria on Nov. 12 which resulted in the arrest of Stanislav Petrov were in accordance with the law which authorizes law enforcement officers to use reasonable force to make an arrest, to overcome resistance, and to prevent suspects from escaping.”
Rains said Santamaria “has performed his duties courageously and professionally for the past 15 years, has been a field training officer for over seven years, and has never been found to have used excessive or unreasonable force in connection with any one of the hundreds of arrests he has made.”
Rains said, “I am very much aware that any use of force captured visually and audibly is graphic and ugly, even though it may be lawful in every aspect. For this reason, I am confident that a careful and objective analysis of available audio and video evidence will demonstrate unlawful and active resistance by Petrov and the use of lawful force by the deputies to take him into custody.”
Wieber’s attorney, William Rapoport, was unavailable for comment.
Ahern said Santamaria and Wieber “will have to answer for their actions” now that criminal charges have been filed against them.
He said the two deputies, who are on paid administrative leave, are also the subject of an internal affairs investigation by his department that could result in them being fired or having their pay reduced.
Ahern said that since the November incident, his department has increased its training about the use of force and revised its body camera procedures to make it mandatory that deputies turn them on when they’re interacting with the public.
Ahern said he has gone to training classes “to preach about the difference between being a warrior and being a guardian” and said inappropriate use of force by his deputies “will be met abruptly.”MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Cal Fire Officials Discuss How Controlled Burn Erupted Into Estrada Fire
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