The court room where the trial of Officer Terrance Stangel is being heard. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken Feb. 14, 2022.

A Sacramento woman who saw Dacari Spiers and his then-girlfriend near Fisherman’s Wharf in 2019 wavered today as she described the incident that spurred her to get police involved that night, when she alleged domestic violence was in progress. 

“It’s bits and pieces, I don’t remember,” said Charlene McCrary as Assistant District Attorney Hans Moore questioned her on the witness stand. She glanced at defense attorney Nicole Pifari and shrugged. 

On Oct. 6, 2019, McCrary told Mercedes Emerson, her god-niece, to call 911, after witnessing what she says was a violent interaction between Spiers and Breonna Richard. McCrary was presented today as a witness by the defense team for Officer Terrance Stangel, who arrived shortly after the 911 call and began beating Spiers with his baton. 

The ongoing trial, now in its third week, is the first criminal prosecution in the modern era of a San Francisco police officer regarding an on-the-job beating.

Certain events from that night did stick in McCrary’s memory: that Spiers’ girlfriend Richard was “screaming” and looked “scared;” that Spiers was holding Richard and called her “bitch.” Upon coming across the couple purportedly arguing, McCrary remembered that her group of family friends had crossed the street to get away. 

But McCrary could not seem to remember the elements of the 911 call that the defense says were instrumental in influencing the two responding officers to aggressively approach Spiers and quickly begin using force on him without explanation: The allegation that Spiers choked Richard and dragged her around by her neck. 

“I know he was grabbing her and holding her,” McCrary said, demonstrating with her arms crossed across her chest, not touching her neck. When asked, she couldn’t remember a recent statement prior to the trial in which she told the prosecution that she never saw Spiers’ hands around Richard’s neck. 

When the defense asked about McCrary’s 2019 statement that Spiers grabbed Richard by the neck and was “choking her out,” McCrary, again, couldn’t quite remember. “He did have her held where she couldn’t get away,” she proffered. 

Later, after being presented with a transcript of her 2019 conversation with an SFPD investigator, McCrary gave a more definitive statement on the stand. Spiers “snatched [Richard] by the neck, grabbed her by the neck,” she said today, adding that he had also “dragged” Richard. 

Minutes later, asked again by Moore about the dragging, McCrary once more couldn’t remember. “It coulda happened,” she said. But now, she said, two years have passed. 

Defense’s use-of-force expert finds baton beating checks out

Following McCrary’s testimony, Stangel’s defense team presented a use-of-force expert to counter last week’s testimony from the prosecution’s use-of-force expert, Roger Clark

Through the afternoon, SFPD Officer Patrick Woods challenged Clark’s claims that Spiers had no opportunity to comply with the officers’ orders before being struck in a “continuous flurry of beating.” In Woods’ view, the officers acted in compliance with their training. 

When questioned by Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Young, however, Woods acknowledged certain failures on the part of the police. For example, Stangel issued no orders that Spiers could have complied with as he was being beaten; the only order Stangel gave was for Spiers to get on the ground, when he was already on the ground. 

Woods also acknowledged that officers are trained to discuss a plan prior to arriving on the scene, and that partners arriving together is more effective than when they separate. Stangel and Martínez followed neither of these protocols. 

In his original report after the 2019 incident, as part of his duties in the ​​Field Tactics and Force Options unit, Woods had also noted that the condition of the scene upon arrival — a couple standing and talking — was different enough from the 911 report of a man choking a woman that the officers had time to approach. Immediate action was not necessary, Woods wrote at the time. 


Young noted that Stangel’s partner, Officer Cuauhtémoc Martínez, had already gotten physical with Spiers when Stangel arrived several steps behind. Could Stangel have taken a moment to assess and de-escalate the situation, instead of jumping in with his baton? 

It was “theoretically possible” the officers could have dealt with Spiers in a manner other than striking him with a baton, Woods said. But he felt the situation posed too much of a risk to the officers’ safety, and determined the baton use was valid. 

Young, who probed Woods for nearly two hours, often brought her questions back to various SFPD policies that advise officers to treat civilians with dignity, give them a voice, and safeguard their rights. 

She pointed out that Spiers repeatedly asked what he had done, but received no answers from the police officers. Was Martínez’s approach, such as calling out, “Come over here” and telling Spiers to face the wall, respectful? Did he de-escalate the situation? 

In Woods’ view, Martínez was de-escalating the situation, and “pretty much any cop” would have spoken and acted the same. 

The defense will continue its case tomorrow and the case could be handed over to the jury this week. It is not clear if Stangel will take the stand in his own defense.  


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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. Eleni,

    End game solution?

    Give everyone on the planet of legal age of consent ten grand to get sterilized.

    We need to cut the world’s population in half to have any chance of survival at the level of civilization we’ve attained to date which is pretty damned comfortable for most of us who have lived w/out running water and gas and electricity in our youth.

    That’s, as I always say, the ‘elephant in the phone booth’.

    I taught guys like Spiers for neigh on 40 years and invariably they come from homes where they are not wanted.

    Many of them were bred just for the welfare checks they brought in.

    That there?

    That’s some sad but real shit.

    They can be rehabilitated by inculcating 3 positive routines concocted of 4 new habits each and it takes two years.

    I’ve done it but there are only so many teachers like me and way too many screwed up students and more and more daily.

    The major thing we have to do world wide is control and decrease the population drastically to get our numbers more in line with available resources.


    Elect our Police Chief!

    This trial?

    Find Stangel guilty and give him a slap on the wrist.

    That slap will be a body slam to the POA.

    As it should be.

    Go Giants!