A man who suffered serious injuries during a violent encounter with police in Fisherman’s Wharf last year is suing San Francisco, alleging that officers beat him “mercilessly” with batons.
Dacari Spiers, 31, joined his attorneys on the steps of City Hall late Monday morning to announce the filing of his federal lawsuit accusing police of using excessive force against him.
The incident in question happened on Oct. 6, 2019 when Spiers went to Pier 39 with his girlfriend and cousin for Fleet Week, an annual military celebration that draws thousands.
The lawsuit alleges Spiers and his girlfriend were leaning against a car in a “loving embrace” when at least two officers grabbed him from behind and began to strike him with batons.
“Everything happened kind of fast,” Spiers said at the press conference, using a cane to stand. “We [were] enjoying ourselves at Pier 39 like everybody else was.”
Spiers, a music artist and former gig worker who is black, was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries including a broken wrist and leg as well as a large gash on his other leg.
“This shouldn’t happen to nobody at all regardless of what they [are] and what they work for,” Spiers said. “I haven’t been able to work, I haven’t been able to play with my kids, nothing.”
A spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, which is representing the City and County of San Francisco in the lawsuit, said the office would address the allegations in court.
“This matter is still under investigation,” said spokesperson John Cote.
But speaking on behalf of the officers, attorney Nicole Pifari offered a dramatically different version of the events than Spiers.
Pifari said police were responding to a report of a strangulation in progress when Spiers “violently attacked the officers.”
“Unless it is Mr. Spiers’s practice to ‘comfort’ his girlfriend by putting his hands around her neck, I am confident these officers will be exonerated,” Pifari said. “The officers may even be congratulated for interrupting a dangerous domestic violence incident.”
Pifari said the officers “appropriately responded with only as much force as was needed to bring him into custody.”
While police cited Spiers on suspicion of misdemeanor resisting arrest, the District Attorney’s Office said he has not been charged with a crime in connection with the incident.
In the lawsuit, attorneys for Spiers allege that police fabricated the “story about domestic violence” as part of a campaign to silence Spiers and cover up the incident.
The lawsuit alleges police obtained an emergency protective order against Spiers to keep his girlfriend out of the hospital.
Five officers then allegedly went into his hospital room and “attempted to threaten [Spiers] to remain silent” and not seek “legal representation for the beating.”
Police and transit officials have also refused to the release body-camera footage and Muni bus video of the incident, as well as the names of the officers involved, the lawsuit alleges.
And an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office allegedly tried to secretly record Spiers and his girlfriend talking in the hospital room.
Attorneys for Spiers are calling on District Attorney Chesa Boudin to file charges against the officers involved, including for assault under the color of authority.
“We want the officers prosecuted for the brutal beating and intimidation of our client,” said attorney Jamir Davis.
“We want the truth to come out and the only way to do that is by transparency and by filing this lawsuit,” Davis added.
Michael Seville, another attorney for Spiers, tied the alleged beating to the slow progress police have made toward reforms.
As of Feb. 12, the San Francisco Police Department has completed just over 16 percent of 272 recommendations for reform issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in October 2016.
“Dacari would not have had to undergo the beating and subsequent surgeries and painful rehab if this city took this issue seriously,” Seville said.
Spiers’ attorney Curtis Briggs said he hopes to take the case to trial rather than settle.
“What will make this right is for all of us to step forward and use Dacari’s case as a starting point to put so much pressure on this police department to clean up its act,” Briggs said.