Attorneys for Stanislav Petrov, the man beaten by Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies in a Mission District alleyway in November 2015, have filed a federal lawsuit against Alameda County, its sheriff, and the eight deputies who were present at the incident.
Haddad & Sherwin LLP, the law firm representing Petrov, alleges excessive force, theft, and obstruction of justice on the part of the deputies. It also alleges that the department has an “unconstitutional custom and practice of permitting deputies to take trophy photos of individuals whom they have severely beaten and injured.” A few months after the incident, KTVU reported that a homeless couple who had been staying nearby on the street had received bribes — a gold chain, cigarettes, and change — which deputies allegedly stole from Petrov and gave to the couple to buy their silence.
Sheriff’s deputies had pursued Petrov across the Bay Bridge in a car chase after encountering him at a San Leandro parking lot in what they say was a stolen vehicle, a spokesperson said after the incident. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department also told reporters after the incident that deputies had seen a gun in Petrov’s car.
When Petrov crashed near Stevenson Street and Clinton Park in the Mission District, he left his car and ran down an alley. There, video cameras captured deputies pursuing, tackling, and striking him repeatedly with their batons.
The suit follows San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón’s filing of criminal charges against two of the deputies, Paul Wieber and Luis Santamaria, on March 10. This suit, however, names eight deputies and Sheriff Gregory Ahern as its defendants and alleges civil rights violations.
One of Petrov’s attorneys, Michael Haddad, said he is hoping to address the root of the problem within the department.
“You couldn’t have had such an outrageous brutal criminal battery by police officers happen in front of many other officers unless there was some illegal criminal culture in the department that allowed it to happen,” he said. “We want to try to fix the problem in the department that allows this to happen in the first place so nobody else has to go through this.”
A spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff, Sergeant Ray Kelly, said internal investigations are ongoing, though two deputies have been criminally charged and a third no longer works at the department. Kelly did not comment on the content of the federal suit directly.
“We are aware that it is another part of this case that will need to be addressed,” he said. “We will continue to do a thorough, fair and cooperative investigation with all involved parties.”
The firm filed a claim against Alameda County in late March alleging that the deputies painfully cuffed Petrov and robbed him. Because Alameda County did not respond to Haddad’s claim, his firm is free to pursue a lawsuit. The suit will allow Haddad to subpoena records, like the footage of the incident recorded when one of the deputies accidentally activated his body camera. That footage has so far only been seen by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
After the incident, Haddad said, Petrov suffered broken bones in his hands requiring surgeries, a concussion, and “permanent disability and disfigurement.”
For his part, Petrov was not charged with any crimes in connection with the incident, but was arrested by federal agents in April for drug manufacturing and has a history of felony convictions and drug dealing arrests, the Examiner reported. His mother has said that the beating destroyed Petrov both physically and mentally.