A San Francisco police officer who prosecutors say unnecessarily beat a man with a baton near Fisherman’s Wharf in October 2019 will stand trial on four felony assault and battery charges, a judge ruled Tuesday.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Linda Colfax held Officer Terrance Stangel to answer on the charges at the close of a days-long preliminary hearing, finding there was probable cause to believe the officer committed a crime when he repeatedly struck 32-year-old Dacari Spiers with a baton.
Stangel and his partner, Officer Cuauhtemoc Martinez, were responding to a 911 call reporting a man “choking out” a woman near Powell and Beach streets on Oct. 6, 2019 when they confronted Spiers and his then-girlfriend. Spiers was standing near the woman and matched the description of the suspect.
Defense attorney Nicole Pifari argued that Stangel swung the baton in defense of himself and others after Spiers refused to comply with an order to face the wall and pushed Martinez. Pifari said Stangel put his baton away once Spiers was under control and asked if he was OK.
“The people are trying to charge this man with four felonies for doing exactly what he’d trained to do, exactly what we have asked him to do,” Pifari told the judge. “He downgraded his force when it was appropriate to do so… He showed kindness and compassion.”
But Assistant District Attorney Hans Moore of the Independent Investigations Bureau argued that the force was unreasonable because Spiers was not committing a crime or threatening the officers. Moore also characterized his resistance as being reactions to the police baton strikes.
“It’s clear from the body-worn camera that there is no crime in progress,” Moore said in court. “It’s not a crime to stand close to each other.”
Stangel is the third current or former San Francisco Police Department officer to face criminal charges over a use-of-force incident under District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who has pledged to hold officers accountable for misconduct.
“We are pleased that, after the testimony of numerous witnesses over three days, the court confirmed that there is enough evidence to support presenting all four felony charges we filed to a jury,” Boudin said after the ruling.
When Boudin charged Stangel last December, the district attorney said the case was an example of an officer “unnecessarily escalating a situation and then violently beating a Black man whom he had no legal basis to even arrest.”
During the hearing, Pifari argued that the prosecution was “political.” She said the District Attorney’s Office omitted statements from the hearing and Stangel’s arrest affidavit that would exonerate the officer.
San Francisco Police Officers Association President Montoya said the hearing “made clear that there are many facts in this case that Chesa Boudin wants to hide and his promise to run a transparent office rings hollow.”
“Officer Stangel will now put forward the facts that will show that he acted to defend a woman in distress, and to protect his partner and himself from a violent attack and did so in a professional and measured fashion,” Montoya said.
Spiers suffered a broken wrist and leg during the encounter. He has filed a federal lawsuit against The City alleging excessive force that is pending.
Stangel was held to answer on charges of battery with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and assault under the color of authority.
He remains out of custody and is due back in court March 16.
Police Chief Bill Scott has released body-worn camera footage from the encounter.