Two former Alameda County sheriff’s deputies who were caught on camera in 2015 beating an unarmed man in a Mission District alley waived their right to a preliminary hearing in the California Superior Court Friday, and are now scheduled for arraignment June 18.
The waiver followed a decision last week in which District Attorney Chesa Boudin re-filed charges against Luis Santamaria and Paul Wieber for unlawful beating or assault by a public officer, assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated battery causing serious injury.
The two ex-deputies were originally charged in 2016 by District Attorney George Gascon, and despite the national outcry and existence of video evidence in the case, five years later it remains unresolved.
While it’s unclear what caused the delay of more than three years while DA Gascon was in office, the case was set to proceed early in 2020, just after Boudin was sworn in as DA.
Shortly before the trial, however, a key expert witness had to go into surgery. The DA requested a continuance, but it was denied, forcing the prosecutors to file for a first dismissal rather than risk losing the case, according to Rachel Marshall of the DA’s office. At the time, both Boudin and Marshall emphasized the DA’s intention to refile the case, though Marshall said the coronavirus pandemic caused further delays.
“We had to make sure that we had all of our ducks in a row,” Marshall said, reiterating the DA’s “commitment to holding the police accountable” in a case of “really horrific police misconduct and obvious excessive use of force.”
After a high-speed car chase across the Bay Bridge, surveillance footage revealed the two ex-deputies, Santamaria and Wieber, chased 29-year-old Stanislav Petrov into an alley in the Mission and tackled him to the ground, then beat him repeatedly with batons. The officers’ body cams were turned off, but a nearby surveillance camera was not: It recorded everything, including when Petrov raised his hands in what appeared to be surrender.
This case marks the fourth instance in which Boudin has filed criminal charges against police officers since he took office in January, 2020, a move unheard of in San Francisco before last year. The cases are outlined below:
- November, 2020: SFPD Officer Christopher Samayoa was charged with homicide for the 2017 shooting of unarmed 42-year-old Keita O’Neil in the Bayview, who was suspected in a carjacking.
- December, 2020: SFPD Officer Christopher Flores was charged in the 2019 shooting of 25-year-old burglary suspect Jamaica Hampton at Mission and 23rd streets. Hampton was also charged.
- December, 2020: SFPD Officer Terrance Stangel was charged with beating 32-year-old Dacari Spiers with a baton in October, 2019, near Fisherman’s Wharf.
- May, 2021: former Alameda County deputies Santamaria and Wieber were charged in the 2015 beating of Petrov in the Mission District.
These charges have been welcomed by many in the community pushing for change in police accountability. Meanwhile, Police Chief Bill Scott has issued statements of support to SFPD officers in response to the charges, claiming an “absence of balance.”
There have also been cases where the DA has declined to pursue charges against police officers, or has made an announcement that he is unable to do so. Some of those cases involving death or severe injury are outlined below:
- In February, 2015, SFPD officers shot and killed Amilcar Perez-Lopez in the Mission District. This case was dropped by former DA Gascon and re-examined by DA Boudin.
- In March, 2018, 10 SFPD officers shot and killed Jesus Delgado-Duarte near Capp and 21st streets after he was allegedly involved in an armed burglary; Delgado-Duarte fired once at the officers before dying in a fusillade of gunfire.
- Christopher Kliment died in police custody in January, 2019, after being discharged from the California Pacific Medical Center’s Mission Bernal emergency department and refusing to leave. Officers restrained and handcuffed him on the ground, where he “continued to struggle and bang his head against the floor and the side of a table.”
- In October, 2020, Cesar Vargas was shot and killed after he charged at SFPD officers with a knife near Valencia and Market streets. He was suspected of carjacking with a knife.
- SFPD officers fired less-lethal projectiles and shot arson suspect Antonio Estrada in November, 2020, because he refused to drop the knife he was carrying on Market Street.
In some of the above cases, Boudin said the department declined to file charges because the officers’ actions qualified as self-defense, while Kliment’s death was found to be accidental.
In the case of Perez-Lopez, Boudin’s May 27 press release stated, “The only possible charge that has not expired due to the statute of limitations is murder. The evidence did not support a murder charge.”
“This conclusion does not in any way suggest that this incident was handled appropriately by officers at the time, nor does it sanction the officer’s conduct … Because of the limits on recreating evidence years later, and the lack of the rigorous investigation needed at the time, the District Attorney’s Office remains unable to prosecute this case today.”
While there is a movement to recall the District Attorney, retired ACLU attorney and police reform advocate John Crew said that, from his perspective, Boudin is doing exactly what he said he would in his campaign: “To take a fair look at these cases, look at the facts see if prosecution is necessary, justified, warranted by the facts of the case beyond a reasonable doubt, and if so, file charges.”
For those concerned that Boudin isn’t doing enough to go after violence in the police department, Crew stressed that the DA has a specific role that many don’t always realize.
District Attorneys are “only there to provide accountability on the criminal side, which is a particularly high standard that you have to prove — well, it’s a crime, not that they violated policy,” Crew said. “And you have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”
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