San Francisco officials plan to dismiss cases against 79 of the 81 teenagers encircled and arrested Saturday night for allegedly rioting during the annual Dolores Park “hill bomb,” Mission Local has learned.
Parents, reached Friday evening, said they had not received official confirmation, but had been told by the Public Defender’s Office to expect the cases to be dismissed.
“We heard that they don’t need to show up for the appointments, and that cases are not being pursued,” added Rachel Lederman, the civil rights attorney who has been in contact with dozens of parents for possible civil rights suits against the city.
The Juvenile Probation Department did not immediately confirm the dismissed cases. Parents have received conflicting information from probation officers; some say to expect dismissals, others that investigations are still ongoing.
Mission Local learned from four sources close to the charging process that the city plans to drop cases against 79 of the teenagers.
The teenagers had not yet been formally accused, but were cited for misdemeanor rioting, failure to disperse, and conspiracy.
Sophia, a mother of a 16-year-old boy, said she was heartened by the news. “You always want your kid to have one less thing to worry about. … It makes me feel a little less afraid.”
It is unclear if, or when, the city would make an announcement on the dropped cases. Juvenile criminal justice matters are highly confidential, and officials are prohibited from disclosing information about a minor’s criminal record, or lack thereof.
A total of 117 people were arrested in connection with the Dolores hill bomb on July 8, according to the San Francisco Police Department. The hill bomb is an annual tradition where skateboarders “bomb” Dolores Street by skating fast downhill.
Eighty-one juveniles and 32 adults were booked for rioting and related charges, one adult for resisting arrest, and another adult who was cited and released on-scene. It is unclear why two of those minors will not see their cases dropped.
Additionally, two other juveniles face charges from an alleged assault on a police sergeant, the incident that initiated the riot response. According to the police department, a 16-year-old boy spit on a sergeant, the sergeant attempted to arrest him, and a 15-year-old girl interfered. The sergeant then “suffered lacerations to the face,” the police said, during the altercation.
Video of the incident shows the 16-year-old being grabbed by multiple officers and pushed to the ground as the girl yells, “Get off him!” Photos of the injury suffered by the sergeant show a small cut to the forehead. The Police Department did not say whether a weapon was recovered at the scene.
Those two teenagers still have court dates.
At least one of the 34 adults had their case dropped, but the status of the rest is unclear; the District Attorney’s Office said it would handle charges on a case-by-case basis. Witnesses said the majority of the 34 arrestees were teenagers and young adults.
SFPD arrests preceded teenage violence, vandalism
Police shut down the hill bomb Saturday evening, leading crowds to scatter across Dolores Park. The injury suffered by the sergeant led to dispersal orders, police said. Witnesses said the teenage crowd reacted to the arrests of the two teens by throwing glass bottles and setting off fireworks.
The officers then charged into the crowds over the next two hours, shuffling skaters and spectators across various blocks. At one point, the teenagers vandalized a Muni tram and bus, inflicting $70,000 worth of damages, a Muni spokesperson said.
All of those acts occurred after the initial police response, however, and witnesses said they were a reaction to the riot-control tactics employed by the officers.
The bulk of the arrested teenagers were detained between lines of officers on 17th Street, held on the ground for hours while their parents nearby demanded their immediate release. The teenagers were instead zip-tied and transported to Mission Station, a block away, for processing well into the night. They were released one by one, the last at 4:15 a.m.
Parents have vowed civil rights suits against the city. Many spoke at the Police Commission hearing on Wednesday expressing outrage at the treatment of their children; commissioners promised an investigation into the police actions.
At least two teenagers said they were never read their rights, a violation of police policy. Several teenagers said they were kept from using a bathroom during their detention, another violation, and that teenagers wet themselves as a result. Others said they were thirsty, hungry, and panicked.
Police Chief Bill Scott, for his part, has defended the actions of his officers in subduing those who “brazenly engaged in reckless and dangerous behavior and violated the law.” The San Francisco police union praised the “restraint” of officers.
Chief Scott promised to release body-camera footage of the hill bomb incident and a full report at next week’s Police Commission hearing. Parents said they would return to City Hall then.
Kevin Ortiz, the co-president of the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club — who has been communicating with several parents and organized a rally on their behalf this past week — said the lack of prosecutions showed the police overstepped in arresting the teenagers in the first place.
“While the club is relieved at 79 youth not being charged, it clearly demonstrates that SFPD had no reasonable justification for these juvenile arrests other than wanting to show force on children,” he said.
Additional reporting by Lydia Chavez.
Those wishing to contact the Juvenile Division of the Public Defender’s Office can call 415-753-7601 or visit their website.
Correction: A previous version of this article attributed the decision to drop cases to the District Attorney’s Office. The DA’s office said the Juvenile Probation Department has purview over the juvenile misdemeanor cases. We regret the error.