San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi today criticized newly-released statements by two Alameda County sheriff's deputies about why they beat a suspect with batons after he led them on a high-speed chase from unincorporated San Leandro to San Francisco last November.
The beating of 29-year-old Stanislav Petrov, who allegedly had stolen a car, occurred on Stevenson Street in San Francisco's Mission District in the early morning hours of Nov. 12.
Adachi said in a statement, "The deputies' description of their encounter with Mr. Petrov does not match the surveillance video of the brutal beating released by my office."
Adachi said, "The report's narrative attempts to justify the savage attack by claiming Mr. Petrov resisted arrest and reached for his waistband. But the ultimate objective witness - the camera - shows the deputies striking a man with their batons more than 30 times while he writhes helplessly in the street."
Adachi said, "It is also disturbing that none of the 11 deputies involved turned on their body cameras. I do not believe that is a coincidence, but an attempt to cover up their misconduct. I urge the San Francisco District Attorney to file criminal charges against these officers."
Alameda County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said since deputies were first issued body cameras in 2009 it's been optional for deputies to turn them on, although the department has encouraged them to activate the cameras when they interact with the public.
Kelly said the department launched "a comprehensive review" of its body camera policy before the incident with Petrov and it is changing to a mandatory full-time policy.
Kelly said, "Our new policy is in line with the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Justice" and the sheriff's department is seeking to buy new cameras that are automatically activated when deputies contact the public.
"We want to take away the human factor" so that deputies don't have to physically turn on the cameras, he said.
The incident involving Petrov is still being investigated by his agency as well as the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.
Shortly after the incident, Kelly said it began at about 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 12 when deputies who were patrolling a hotel parking lot in the 17200 block of Foothill Boulevard spotted a stolen 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 sedan.
When they approached the vehicle, the suspect inside, later identified as Petrov, started the car, ignored orders to stop and then allegedly rammed two patrol cars, injuring one deputy and disabling his vehicle, Kelly said.
Petrov then led deputies on a chase on Interstate Highway 580 into Oakland and then west toward San Francisco, crossing the Bay Bridge at speeds of more than 100 mph, Kelly said.
Petrov exited the freeway in San Francisco, struck a parked car on a city street and fled on foot before he was captured, according to Kelly.
Surveillance camera footage made public by the San Francisco Public Defender's Office after the incident shows the deputies hitting Petrov with their batons multiple times.
Kelly said deputies who searched the Mercedes-Benz that Petrov had been driving found a loaded gun and drugs for sale.
Oakland attorney Michael Haddad, who represents Petrov, a San Francisco man who was hospitalized for several weeks after the incident, said today that he likely will file a claim on Petrov's behalf against the sheriff's department and the deputies in the near future.
Haddad said it's "highly irregular" that deputies Luis Santamaria and Paul Wieber wrote their statements four days after the incident because deputies are supposed to complete their statements the same day as the incidents they are writing about.
Haddad said that suggests to him that the two deputies either didn't write statements immediately after the incident or that they altered their statements to try to justify their actions after the surveillance video of the incident was made public.
Wieber said in his report that when he and Santamaria were chasing Petrov on foot in San Francisco, "I noticed Petrov was wearing baggy pants in which he could have easily concealed a weapon."
Wieber said, "I became concerned for my safety because Stevenson Street is a poorly-lit alley in an isolated area" and he believed "Petrov was luring me into a possible ambush or position of disadvantage."
Wieber also said Petrov had "a definitive weight advantage" and he feared Petrov would use that "to attack or overpower me once I tried to take him into custody."
Santamaria said he struck Petrov with a baton several times because he thought Petrov was going to assault Wieber but "the baton strikes appeared to have little if any effect on Petrov as he continued to actively resist."
But Haddad said Petrov surrendered once the deputies caught up with him and forced him to the ground but the deputies continued to hit Petrov with their batons even after he no longer posed a threat.
Haddad said the deputies broke "almost every finger" in Petrov's hands so Petrov can no longer work as an auto mechanic, which was his profession before the incident.
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