Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

Prosecutors repeatedly challenged defense witness claims on the last day of testimony in the trial of San Francisco Police Officer Terrance Stangel.

Stangel is charged with beating Dacari Spears, an unarmed Black man, with a baton and breaking two of his bones.

For nearly two hours Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Hans Moore cross examined Sean McCann, a use-of-force expert and Administration of Justice professor at Napa Valley College.

McCann acknowledged that poor planning and poor communication could be “fatal errors” for police. Stangel and his partner, Cuauhtemoc Martinez, testified that they had no plan when they confronted Spiers near Fisherman’s Wharf on Oct. 6, 2019. The officers were responding to a bystander’s 911 call about a domestic violence incident.

McCann also acknowledged that confusion can escalate an interaction with police. Stangel testified that he ordered Spiers to “get on the ground” after he was already on the ground, and did not respond to Spiers’ questions about why the officers were grabbing him. 

But McCann disagreed with the prosecution’s contention that Stangel and Martinez could have  taken a slower approach. Spiers and his then-girlfriend, Breonna Richard, were not involved in an altercation when the officers arrived. 

“I don’t think that’s a sound approach, the idea of — the ‘taking time’ thing,” McCann said when questioned by defense attorney Nicole Pifari. He said he approved of the officers’ decision to grab Spiers, because Richard could still have been in danger.

Rebuttal of eyewitness testimony

The District Attorney’s office also called two rebuttal witnesses to the stand, in an attempt to challenge testimony from the two women who placed the initial 911 call.

Prosecutors have argued that the women were too far away to see any interactions between Spiers and Richard clearly.

Andrew Koltuniak, an investigator with the DA’s Office, told jurors Thursday that the women were standing on two separate street corners and at least 83 feet away from the couple — at night.

One of the women, Charlene McCrary, testified Tuesday that she and her godniece, Mercedes Emerson, called 911 after crossing the street to get away from Spiers and Richard.

McCrary insisted that she could still see the couple, but wavered on her past statements that Spiers was holding Richard by the neck.

Spiers was neither arrested nor charged with domestic violence.  

Character witness for Spiers, who is not on trial 

Prosecutors also called Lynnette Brown to the stand, to rebut defense claims that Spiers was violent to women. Brown has known Spiers since she was eight years old, when the two lived in the Fillmore District.

Spiers’ character has been under scrutiny throughout the 10 days of trial. Stangel’s attorney has called several witnesses to testify about Spiers’ past run-ins with law enforcement.  

Brown, who once dated Spiers, testified about a 2018 incident in Oakland, when Spiers assaulted a man who allegedly touched her inappropriately. Under cross-examination by defense attorney Nicole Pifari, Brown said Spiers “came to defend” her. 

Earlier in the trial, the police officer who responded to the Oakland incident testified that when he arrived on the scene, Spiers was compliant and followed orders. 

Closing arguments in the case are set to begin Monday.

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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. Why would anyone be surprised that the same department that violates privacy and integrity by “repurposing” DNA taken from victims to solve crimes those victims might have perpetrated would not hinge its defense of criminal cops on blaming the victims of their violence?

    Nothing will change at the SFPD until the LEO criminal cartel at the SFPOA is broken.

  2. Eleni,

    Thank you for following this with your usual excellent writing.

    I’m trying to hide how excited I am from myself but I honestly haven’t been on the edge of my seat for anything like this since the Panda hit those 3 homers against Detroit in 2012.

    Can you even begin to imagine the electric shock that will go across this entire nation if the jury finds Stangel guilty?

    Also, on an interesting and curious and unusual and wtf note …

    Looks like new SF Standard just stopped covering the trial w/out explanation?

    Go giants!

    h.