San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón on Tuesday announced that his office is bringing felony assault charges against two Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies involved in the November 2015 beating of Stanislav Petrov.
Luis Santamaria and Paul Wieber, who have worked in the sheriff’s department 14 years and three years respectively, are charged with assault under color of authority, battery with serious bodily injury, and assault with a deadly weapon. Bail has been set at $140,000 each.
Corruption allegations, stemming from statements made by a homeless couple living near the incident that a deputy bribed them with jewelry belonging to Petrov, are still under investigation.
Petrov was chased down Stevenson Street by sheriff’s deputies following a car chase that began in Alameda, where the deputies approached Petrov because he was sitting in a reportedly stolen car. Petrov allegedly rammed several police vehicles before taking off in the car, eventually crashing near Stevenson Street. When he got out of the car, he ran down the alley, pursued by Santamaria and Wieber, who tackled him and then beat him repeatedly with batons. His injuries required surgery, and Petrov feared in November that he might lose the use of his arm.
Criminal charges against law enforcement for the use of force are rare – no charges were filed against officers involved in the controversial deadly shooting of Alex Nieto, and the District Attorney is still expected to make a decision regarding criminal charges in the shootings of Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez Lopez and Luis Gongora.
“They are rare, and they’re rare for a good reason: Most of the time police officers do the right thing, and they work within the law,” Gascón, who is a former police officer, said.
“We are relieved that charges have finally been filed; it’s been a long wait, almost been seven months,” said Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “Make no mistake, often, in this hall, there are many people who are charged within a day or two of assault, particularly if you have evidence on video.”
Gascón said bringing charges against deputies from another county complicated the process.
“It’s made it more difficult, because we have to work through another county and they have different procedures,” he said.
Adachi said the video, which his office released to the public, was likely the primary factor in bringing the charges.
“We applaud the DA’s decision to charge. It is a very rare thing,” Adachi said. “The difference in this case is that we have a video. Without the video I doubt very much that we would be standing here.”
In late March, word spread of a second video clip of the incident that resulted from the accidental activation of a deputy’s body-worn camera, though that footage has not been released. Gascón would not say what it showed.
“There is a lot already that is in the public domain that went into the public domain without our participation. So I cannot unring that bell. But we have a trial that we have to now prepare for, and everybody gets to have due process and everybody gets to have their day in court,” he told reporters.
Petrov has been arrested by federal officials on firearm possession and drug-trafficking charges unrelated to his November 2015 encounter with the deputies. Meanwhile, his lawyer, Michael Haddad, has filed a complaint against Alameda County alleging a cover-up of Petrov’s beating.