One of the two San Francisco Police officers who shot Jamaica Hampton on Dec. 7, 2019, is currently under disciplinary review for his prior role in the beating of an incapacitated man with a baton last June.
The Department of Police Accountability, the department’s watchdog, charged Officer Sterling Hayes with use of excessive force for the 2018 beating of Jeffery McElroy. The DPA sent its findings to Chief Bill Scott in June, and it’s unclear when — or if — the chief will discipline Hayes. SFPD spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak declined to comment on Hayes’s situation, citing it as a “personnel matter.”
In addition to allegations of excessive force, a witness testified during McElroy’s criminal trial that Hayes laughed about the beating incident with his partner. Body-worn camera footage reviewed by DPA investigators allegedly caught him fist-bumping a fellow officer following the beating.
Despite the pending disciplinary decision, Hayes went on to become an officer who trains freshly graduated rookies from the SFPD’s academy. And, in fact, when Hampton’s shooting took place on Dec. 7, Hayes was training his partner, Officer Christopher Flores, a rookie undergoing his first-year field training at Mission Station.
Flores, who is still within his probationary period, could face swift and severe career repercussions in the wake of the shooting. Scott can release him unilaterally, without a Police Commission hearing, if the chief finds that when Flores shot at Hampton he contravened department policy. Scott did this in the case of rookie Officer Christopher Samayoa, who shot and killed carjacking suspect Keita O’Neil in Bayview in December 2017.
Meet @SFPDMission station’s Ofc. Hayes he is the Castro Street Footbeat. Many people were asking last night at the Town Hall meeting, who is our Footbeat officer. When you see him, say hi. #SFPD pic.twitter.com/jHcQPlhQv5
— Capt.Troy Dangerfield (@1YCEU) November 8, 2017
But the details of the most recent case are different, and may well take a different course.
On Tuesday night at Cesar Chavez Elementary, SFPD officials told a largely unsympathetic crowd of community members that Hayes and Flores together shot at Hampton seven times, striking him three times and hospitalizing him. This came on the heels of a brief foot chase precipitated by Hampton assaulting Flores with an 8½-inch Grey Goose vodka bottle.
Both the body-worn camera footage of Officer Hayes and surveillance footage from a nearby hotel shows Hayes moving to head off the running Hampton before firing six times at him, striking him multiple times. Surveillance footage also shows Flores shooting at Hampton as Hampton was down on the street and attempting to get up — though at that point Hampton had been shot multiple times and appeared incapacitated.
Whether the District Attorney decides to charge the officers criminally — and whether the SFPD believes the officers should be disciplined — could take months, if not years, to determine. In the case of the rookie Flores, this time period may be smaller. Samayoa was “released” by the department four months after he shot O’Neil in 2017.
The excessive force charges looming for Hayes did not prevent him from earning the role of a training officer. As Mission Local reported in October, Hayes and his partner, Officer Michael Marcic, stopped Jeffery McElroy in June 2018 for riding his bike on the sidewalk near 16th and Mission streets.
They undertook a pat-down search of McElroy’s body — which the Department of Police Accountability found to be out-of-policy because, at that point, McElroy had been compliant. They followed by searching McElroy’s bag, and Hayes and Marcic discovered a handgun within. McElroy bolted down Mission Street, ending up within a residential garage on Natoma Street at 15th.
Officers said that McElroy brandished a metal chair at them — and that is why Marcic tackled McElroy and punched him in the face. Marcic testified during McElroy’s July 2018 criminal trial that McElroy was resisting and the force was justified. (The judge tossed Marcic’s testimony because he found him to be “not credible” based on video evidence.)
During its subsequent investigation, the SFPD’s watchdog, the Department of Police Accountability, found that “subject’s hands were flailing while [Marcic] was on top of the subject trying to unsuccessfully gain compliance of the subject.”
At this point, “Hayes strikes McElroy in the leg with his baton at least four times,” the DPA wrote of its review of body-worn camera footage. “Hayes yells at McElroy several times, “‘Stop fighting!’” as he is striking him. While Hayes is doing this, Marcic continues to punch McElroy.”
Body-worn camera footage reviewed by the watchdog agency’s investigators also showed “fist-bumps” between Marcic and Hayes “after the subject was in custody [and] on the ground moaning in pain.” The DPA said there was “insufficient evidence” to charge the officers with inappropriate conduct based upon these fist-bumps. Both officers denied they were celebrating the beating — but, rather, “it was in recognition of their accomplishment of finding a gun that would no longer be on the streets.”
A witness, however, testified under oath during McElroy’s July 2018 criminal hearing that the officers “were fist-bumping and laughing and pointing at this individual here [McElroy], and I saw high-fiving as well.” Judge Stephen Murphy dismissed all charges against McElroy following the hearing.
Hayes’s potential discipline issues for alleged excessive force didn’t seem to factor in for SFPD higher-ups as they vetted him and greenlit his application. It requires “a positive personnel history,” including “supervisory recommendation, performance evaluations, and disciplinary records,” Andraychak, the department spokesman, wrote.
At present, Andraychak added, both Hayes and Flores are assigned to “nonpatrol duties.”