Mother of man beaten by deputies says he is no ‘monster’

Olga Petrov on Monday, April 4, 2016. (Yesica Prado/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Olga Petrov on Monday, April 4, 2016. (Yesica Prado/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A frustrated Olga Petrov walked out of San Francisco’s federal courthouse Monday with no details about why her son had been arrested or what charges he faces.

Stanislav Petrov, 29, who was hospitalized last fall after being beaten in a Mission District alley by two Alameda County sheriff’s deputies, again made headlines Friday after he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a joint raid with San Francisco police at a house in Visitacion Valley. A woman whose identity has not been released was also arrested.

But the public — including Petrov’s mother — remains in the dark regarding the arrest, because the indictment against Petrov is sealed until Wednesday and his court appearance Monday was held behind closed doors.

Olga Petrov, however, reluctantly spoke to the media Monday about what she called her son’s ill treatment and demonization by law enforcement.

Stressed and tired after months of dealing with her son’s fate, she is clear-minded about how her son has been treated.

On Nov. 12, 2015, Petrov led Alameda County sheriff’s deputies on a chase into San Francisco. After abandoning his car, Petrov was pursued onto Stevenson Street and tackled by two deputies, who were then caught beating Petrov on surveillance tape that was later released by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Deputies claimed in their reports that Petrov rammed one of their cars and that they feared for their lives because they thought he might pull a gun on them.

Petrov’s mother doesn’t believe such claims. Law enforcement is “deliberately shaping public opinion to criminalize him to make him a monster,” she said.

When his writhing figure appeared in a grainy surveillance video fending off blows — two Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies repeatedly struck him with their batons — the story raised a stir, and subsequently faded from the minds of many.

But Olga Petrov hasn’t been able to forget the image of her son’s beating. When she saw the video, she “fell to her knees.”

She added, “I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream.” Instead, she felt as if her stomach had turned to stone.

It took three days to find her son, and law enforcement was little help, she said. When she located him at San Francisco General Hospital, he was not in good shape. She said brain injuries from the beating impacted him mentally and he hasn’t been the same since.

The misinformation campaign began almost as soon as the news of his beating emerged, said Olga Petrov, who came to the U.S. as a political exile from the Black Sea port of Odessa in the former Soviet Union. To some degree, that has made her son’s situation worse, since it reminds her of the police state she escaped 19 years ago.

“It smells so familiar,” she said of her son’s case.

For instance, law enforcement reported that her son was in a stolen car the night he was beaten, but Olga Petrov contends it was actually a leased car that had not yet been returned.

After he was released by the hospital — she pleaded that he was in no state to be out — she lost track of him as he moved from place to place.

Months passed. In the meantime, Petrov had at least two run-ins with the law, first on March 8 when he was booked on drug related charges in San Francisco. He was also stopped for traffic-related violations in The City.

Then, late last month, new information emerged in the case: leaked incident reports stated the deputies were afraid for their lives. A lawyer representing Petrov subsequently alleged that the reports were written days after the beating and may have been altered. What’s more, two witnesses were allegedly bribed by those same deputies, none of whom had turned on their body cameras during the incident.

Stanislav Petrov in his hospital bed after the November 2015 beating. (Courtesy Michael Haddad)
Stanislav Petrov in his hospital bed after the November 2015 beating. (Courtesy Michael Haddad)

That was followed by Friday’s raid at a house in Visitacion Valley, where Petrov was arrested.

The indictment that led to Petrov’s arrest early Friday morning was what prompted FBI involvement, while a search warrant for the property was issued to San Francisco police in connection with a shooting at that location earlier that day. Petrov is set to appear in court Wednesday when his indictment should be unsealed.

V. Roy Lefcourt, who previously represented Petrov in state court, said he is not representing Petrov in the matter. However, he said the developments of the last few days have been abnormal.

“Not releasing the unsealed complaint is extremely unusual and that the courtroom was closed is even more unusual,” said Lefcourt.

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