San Francisco Police Officer Terrance Stangel is facing a slew of felony battery and assault charges just over a year after he allegedly beat a Black man, Dacari Spiers, with a baton at Fisherman’s Wharf, sending Spiers into surgery with a broken leg and wrist.
District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced the charges on Monday, shortly after the DA’s office filed them in San Francisco Superior Court. “This is an example of an old-fashioned beat-down by a police officer against an unarmed Black man,” the DA said in an interview. “And that’s exactly the kind of conduct that we cannot tolerate.”
In filing the charges, Boudin explained that he “campaigned on a very explicit and consistent commitment to enforce the law equally — and that commitment applies not just to civilians, but also to law enforcement when crimes are committed or excessive force is used on the job.”
This newest case represents the third criminal case the DA has filed or initiated against an SFPD officer for on-duty conduct in less than a month. In late November, Boudin announced manslaughter charges against rookie Officer Christopher Samayoa for shooting and killing an unarmed Black man in the Bayview. And last week, Boudin announced that a grand jury indicted Officer Christopher Flores for shooting a man in Mission District as the man was still on the ground.
In the case filed Monday, the DA charged officer “Terry” Stangel — a white police officer who this year earned $117,113, according to city records — with battery with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and assault under color of authority. If convicted of the crimes, Stangel could receive a maximum of four years in prison.
The charges stem from an encounter between Stangel, Spiers, and Spiers’ girlfriend on Oct. 7 of last year that began with what Boudin described as a “Karen call,” a racially biased call to police.
Boudin said his office’s investigation showed that Spiers and his partner were on a date at Fisherman’s Wharf. It was after dark, and Spiers’ girlfriend had experienced a “personal loss,” Boudin said. Spiers was consoling her.
Seeing this, someone called the police to report a domestic violence incident, Boudin said. Moments later, Stangel and his partner, Cuahtemoc Martinez, arrived on the scene.
Boudin said his evidence will show that “within seconds” officers ordered Spiers to turn around, ignored Spiers’ questions about what he was being stopped for, and “immediately laid hands on Mr. Spiers.”
Stangel then approached Spiers from behind and began striking him with a baton, as both Spiers and his girlfriend were pleading for him to stop — still confused about what they had done, according to the DA’s investigation.
Officers then forced Spiers to the ground and Stangel “repeatedly” beat Spiers’ legs with his baton, Boudin said the evidence shows.
Spiers was hospitalized as a result of the incident, Boudin said. One of Spiers’ legs and one of his wrists were broken, and both required surgery.
“There’s no evidence that there was any domestic violence whatsoever” between Spiers and his girlfriend, Boudin said. “He was never arrested for any crime, and there was no lawful basis for police to use force against him, particularly not that kind of force, that caused serious bodily injuries around the time that this happened.”
Boudin is not charging Martinez, even though he was involved in the “melee that led to Mr. Spiers’ broken bones,” Boudin said. “He, based on our evidence, is not the one who we’re alleging used a baton to repeatedly strike Mr. Spiers, resulting in those broken bones.”
“In every criminal case, whether we’re investigating law enforcement or civilians, we look very carefully at who did what,” Boudin added when asked about the decision to not criminally charge Stangel’s partner.
The allegations in the newly filed criminal case closely match the allegations in a federal civil lawsuit Spiers filed in February against the police officers and the SFPD. That case is still in its early stages, and Stangel has not yet been named in court filings.
In addition to its allegations about the baton beating, Spiers’ lawsuit alleges that an unnamed DA investigator took statements from Spiers and his girlfriend, and then attempted to surreptitiously record a conversation between the two by “leaving a recording device in the room after the investigator left,” according to Spiers’ complaint filed on Feb. 24.
In the lawsuit, Spiers also alleges that five unnamed “officers from the county” of San Francisco “forced entry” into Spiers’ hospital room, cleared the room of medical staff, and “attempted to threaten” Spiers into staying quiet about the baton beating and tried to coerce Spiers into not seeking legal representation for the beating.
In legal filings, the City Attorney’s office, which defends SFPD officers in lawsuits, has denied the allegations. Asked whether the DA’s criminal case encompasses those allegations, Boudin said the case against Stangel “has nothing to do with the civil suit or any civil allegations.”
Nevertheless, Spiers’ attorney, Curtis Briggs — who successfully defended Max Harris, one of the two men charged with crimes related to Oakland’s 2016 Ghost Ship fire — applauded Boudin’s move to criminally charge the officer who allegedly beat his client.
“This officer is a loose cannon, and it is a matter of time before he kills an innocent person,” Briggs said in an email. “The entire community should be grateful he is being prosecuted.”
Keith Baraka, a San Francisco firefighter, community activist and vice chair of San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee, said the move was a step forward. “As the murder of George Floyd drew attention worldwide to police abuse of Black men, we must also remember that police violence comes in many forms — including through the dehumanization that results when officers treat Black men like criminals,” Baraka said in a statement.
He added: “Police officers must be held accountable for acts of brutality they commit against those they have sworn to protect and serve.”
By contrast, Tony Montoya, the San Francisco Police Officers Association president, went on the offensive.
“The District Attorney is doing all he can to try this case in the public and not the courtroom, and he’s withholding all of the facts while doing so,” Montoya said in an emailed statement. “Boudin is more interested in headline-chasing than administering justice in a fair and impartial manner.”
“Our expectation is that Officer Stangel will be accorded his due process rights as he navigates through the legal process and all the facts surrounding this incident are made public,” Montoya added.