Deputies charged in San Francisco beating caught on video – Los Angeles Times

Two Alameda County sheriff’s deputies have been charged with multiple felonies after video showed them repeatedly hitting a suspected car thief during an arrest in San Francisco last year, officials said Tuesday.

The alleyway beating of the suspect, Stanislav Petrov, was caught on surveillance video (Note: The video, above, is disturbing and contains several shouted obscenities) and released on YouTube in November by the San Francisco public defender’s office, which said it received the footage from someone who operates a security camera in the area.  

The grainy footage shows two Alameda County sheriff’s deputies chasing a man on foot. As the man slows, one officer tackles him and punches him twice. The second officer arrives and starts hitting Petrov with his baton. Soon both officers can be seen hitting Petrov with their batons.

“This truly was the worst videotaped beating since Rodney King,” said Michael Haddad, who is representing Petrov in a legal claim filed against Alameda County.

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Sometimes Petrov can be seen lying on the ground and other times on his knees. Once the officers begin striking him, he does not appear to be resisting.

“What is going on here is so wrong, so obviously unlawful. It is inexcusable but it is really important to understand what went wrong here and make sure nothing so horrific happens again,” said Seth Stoughton, a University of South Carolina law professor and former Tampa police officer. “They lose it here because of adrenaline. They have an adrenaline rush from the lengthy foot pursuit.”

“They were expecting a bloody confrontation and resistance and when that didn’t occur these deputies had trouble making the transition to calmly handcuffing a person who has given up,” said Stoughton who studies force issues. “When they have trouble transitioning to a calm arrest that is when you see officers completely get carried away and that is their fault.”

Stoughton said officers are “trained to regulate their emotions and actions” to prevent this exact reaction by officers.

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The deputies were placed on leave after the Nov. 12 arrest. A separate, internal investigation into the deputies’ conduct is ongoing, said Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly.

“It is our belief it’s an isolated incident that occurred during a long and intense police chase,” Kelly said of the beating. “The district attorney in San Francisco determined that the force was excessive.

“These officers will have to answer for their actions and will be held accountable for everything they are alleged to have done,” Kelly said. “That being said, anytime you have members of your agency arrested and charged with crimes, it’s very shocking.”

The deputies, Luis Santamaria and Paul Wieber, are 14- and three-year veterans of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, respectively, officials said. They are charged with assault under the color of authority, battery with serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon. They’re expected to surrender by Wednesday and be held in lieu of $140,000 bail.

“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,” San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon said in a statement announcing the charges. “When officers take the law into their own hands, they undermine the moral authority of the entire criminal justice system.”

The deputies’ violent arrest of Petrov followed a dramatic police chase of a stolen vehicle that began in Castro Valley, sped through Oakland and ended in San Francisco. During the pursuit Petrov allegedly rammed two Alameda County sheriff’s vehicles, injuring a deputy. He was never charged with a crime.

Gascon said his office consulted an outside expert for the charges against the two deputies.

“Every case is different. In this case we retained an expert witness and based our decision in part on his opinion,” he said.

After the arrest, one of the deputies stole Petrov’s gold chain and gave it to a transient, Haddad alleged. A San Francisco Public Corruption Task Force is continuing to investigate the deputies for theft, bribery, false police statements and witness tampering, Gascon’s office said.

“We’re going to see more criminal wrongdoing uncovered as we go along,” Haddad said.

Despite skirting charges tied to the police chase, Petrov landed in jail anyway after federal prosecutors indicted him on drug and weapons charges days after he filed a claim against Alameda County.

Petrov was arrested in April after he was found in a room with a gun and more than 120 grams of methamphetamine. A career criminal with multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions, authorities alleged the weapon and narcotics were his.

“It’s gratifying that the people that assaulted him…and committed much greater conduct than anything he’s charged with…have finally been charged,” said William Osterhoudt, Petrov’s attorney in the federal case.

The video of Petrov’s beating was “one of the worst” Osterhoudt had ever seen, he said.

Petrov’s hands were broken during the arrest and he suffered cuts to his head and a concussion, Gascon said.

“The video isn’t definitive but it surely doesn’t look good,” Charles “Sid” Heal, former L.A. County sheriff’s commander and force expert. “In order to justify what happened here there has to be a level of defiance or a weapon.”

“I didn’t have any problem with the first strike with the fist but even the first baton strike is hard to justify but continuing one would probably be viewed as punishment,” Heal said.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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