San Francisco prosecutors are filing criminal charges against two Alameda County sheriff’s deputies who beat and seriously injured a car theft suspect last November after a high-speed chase from the East Bay.
District Attorney George Gascón announced that Deputies Luis Santamaria and Paul Wieber are being charged with assault under color of authority, battery with serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon. The deputies are expected to surrender Wednesday, with bail expected to be set at $140,000 each.
Santamaria and Wieber chased suspect Stanislav Petrov from San Leandro and caught up to him in a Mission District alley early the morning of last Nov. 12.
In a scene captured on video and released by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi on Nov. 13, the deputies tackled Petrov, punched and kicked him, and subjected him to a prolonged beating with their batons.
Petrov, who did not appear to resist the deputies in the video, had allegedly rammed two marked sheriff’s office vehicles with a stolen car, causing minor injuries to one deputy, before fleeing.
He suffered severe fractures to both arms and hands as well as head injuries in the beating. He was hospitalized for 12 days after the beating and underwent multiple surgeries to repair his “crushed” hands, according to his attorneys.
“Policing that violates our constitutional rights damages the reputation of every person that wears the uniform, and it damages the public’s perception of those that are sworn to serve,” Gascón said in announcing the charges Tuesday. “When officers take the law into their own hands, they undermine the moral authority of the entire criminal justice system.”
Gascón said his office is still investigating allegations of false police statements, bribery, theft and witness tampering made against other Alameda County deputies who were involved in the incident.
Petrov also faces gun and drug charges in a federal case that followed a March 8 search of his apartment by the FBI. Gascón said that the cases are unrelated.
Asked why it took nearly six months to bring charges in the videotaped beating, Gascón said cases involving alleged police violence warrant a special level of scrutiny.
“Police officers are constitutionally given the authority to use force during the exercise of their duties,” Gascón said, continuing;
“They are looked upon by the law very differently than the rest of us. Consequently, when we’re looking at these cases we have to look at them through the lens of a constitutional concern as to whether the force was reasonable under the conditions. And there is a tension often that occurs between, between what the law says police officers get to do what the public perceives as being excessive. And that is why it was so important for us to get the video enhanced, it was so important for us to get the right expert in this case.”
Public Defender Adachi criticized the delay in bringing charges, saying, “It sends a message to law enforcement everywhere as to what’s going to be tolerated. And until today, there really has been no accountability.”
Nonetheless, he said he was relieved charges have been filed and added that “the real hero in this incident” was the citizen who came forward with the security camera video of the beating.
“Without the video I doubt very much that we would be standing here,” Adachi said.
The two deputies are expected to surrender by the end of the day Wednesday, with bail set at $140,000 each.
This post includes reporting from KQED’s Zoe Lew and from Bay City News.