Two Alameda County sheriff’s deputies caught beating a man on video in a Mission District alley last fall are facing felony charges for the the alleged assault, even though they claimed in reports that they feared for their lives.
The Nov. 12, 2015, incident began when Stanislav Petrov fled deputies in Alameda County and led them on a car chase into San Francisco. After Petrov ran from the vehicle, two deputies chased him on foot into an alley where video shows they proceeded to beat him as he lay on the ground after being tackled.
Those deputies, Luis Santamaria and Paul Wieber, each face charges of three felony counts, including assault under color of authority, battery with serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon.
“This is a case about police officers acting beyond the authority of the law,” District Attorney George Gascon told reporters at a news conference announcing the charges Tuesday. “This is a case of about police officers violating the constitution. This is a case about excessive force.
In reference to federal charges Petrov faces in an unrelated case, Gascon said the beating “is completely disconnected from any other behavior.”
Petrov has been in federal custody following his April 1 arrest in a joint FBI-police raid outside of a Visitacion Valley home. He is charged with felony drug manufacturing and distribution, conspiracy, being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in the service of a drug crime.
Separate cases aside, Gascon reiterated that such behavior by law enforcement is unusual, and needs to be stamped out when it is found. Additionally, he noted the importance of the video.
“There is no question that the video provided an incredible amount of information,” said Gascon.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi, whose office first obtained and released the video, said he was glad the investigation has led to charges even if it took longer than similar cases involving beatings by civilians.
“One of the real heros in this story is the person who sent me the video,” said Adachi, noting a former student forwarded him the footage of the beating. “Without that I think even the DA said there would be no case.”
Additionally, one of the deputies appears to have accidentally turned on his body camera during the beating.
Gascon said the case took longer than usual for several reasons. Since law enforcement is given the right to use force, when charges are filed for excessive force special care must be taken. The case also took longer because the FBI had to be called in for video expertise, and working with an agency outside of San Francisco, with difference procedure and practices, impacted the case.
Still, Adachi said the case has another deputy involved who has yet to be charged. Deputy Shawn Osbourne, who was seen on video allegedly bribing witnesses to keep quiet, has not been changed.
JD Nelson, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, said the announcement was expected.
“We believe the San Francisco District Attorney has done a fine job,” said Nelson, but added, “It still remains a dark day for our agency.”
There are ongoing administrative investigations into all three deputies, which could result in termination, said Nelson.
All three deputies remain on paid administrative leave.
Both deputies plan to turn themselves in within the week, said Gason. Their warrants are set to be released within days. Santamaria and Wieber have a bail set at $140,000 each, and an arraignment date has not yet been set.
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