San Francisco's crime camera footage key to police abuse claim 

A man who says he was beat up by a San Francisco police officer may have the grisly details of his story backed up in surveillance footage from The City’s own crime cameras.

A federal court order has prompted The City to release footage from the night Kevin Woodson said a police officer repeatedly struck him with a billy club, fracturing his wrist and knee, sending him to the hospital and costing him a recently attained job as a janitor.

“If the video shows what my client says happened to him,” said Woodson’s attorney, Panos Lagos, “it will be as dramatic as you are going to get.”

Some 71 crime cameras cover The City’s most violence-plagued areas, although critics say the cameras rarely help police arrest suspects or deter crime. The cameras have, however, been used successfully by lawyers representing people arrested by police to help their clients.

For example, in July 2008 prosecutors dropped an armed-robbery case against DeAndre Barney after crime-camera footage exonerated him, according to the Public Defender’s Office.

Woodson alleges that officer Adam Eatia drove his police car to where he was standing with a friend at 1700 Eddy St. and shouted at them to “hold it.” When Eatia approached the men on foot, Woodson put his hands “up in a surrender fashion while stating, ‘I surrender,’” the lawsuit alleges. Then the officer, the lawsuit says, began hitting the plaintiff’s knee and wrist with a billy club.

The encounter between the officer and Woodson occurred around 9 p.m. on April 7 last year, soon after Woodson had caused a disturbance in a nearby market over a beer.  

The City said there was no wrongdoing by the officer.

It’s unclear what the footage will show. “We are in the process of reviewing the tapes,” City Attorney spokesman Jack Song said. He declined to comment on the case.

Lagos said he has yet to receive the footage. “I’m trying to settle the case, but settle for what is fair,” he said.

The Department of Emergency Management, which serves as the custodian of records for the cameras, releases footage for about five to seven requests a month, according to Lisa Hoffmann, deputy director of the Division of Emergency Communications. The footage is only available to police — for a specific crime — the public defender, the district attorney and upon a court order.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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