SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) A San Francisco judge today ordered two former Alameda County deputies to stand trial for allegedly assaulting and battering a man in a San Francisco alley in 2015 following a chase that began near San Leandro.
Luis Santamaria, a 14-year veteran of the sheriff's office, and Paul Wieber, a three-year veteran, have both been charged with assault under the color of authority, battery with serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the Nov. 12, 2015 incident, which began when Stanislav Petrov allegedly used a stolen car to ram two marked Alameda County sheriff's patrol cars, causing minor injuries to one deputy, before fleeing across the Bay Bridge.
Throughout the four-day preliminary hearing that began on Monday, prosecutors argued that Santamaria and Wieber used unreasonable and excessive force when they encountered Petrov on Clinton Park, after Petrov had ditched his car near Stevenson and 14th streets and fled on foot. Part of the incident was caught on surveillance video from a nearby home and on body cam
Prosecutors allege Santamaria and Wieber struck Petrov at least 30 times with their batons, with at least three of those blows to the head, over the course of 40 seconds. Petrov suffered injuries including a concussion, broken bones in both hands, a mild traumatic brain injury and deep cuts to
But Santamaria's defense attorney Michael Rains and Wieber's defense attorney William Rapoport both argued that the deputies perceived Petrov to be a threat and had reason to believe that he was armed.
"He'd literally been beaten to pieces. And to say he was just supposed to take it? I disagree," prosecutor Kelly Burke said today in court.
"He was a reasonable threat, but to a point. Where is the line in the sand?"
Wednesday, prosecutor Eric Tejada testified that Alameda County sheriff's deputies are taught to apply force in order to get compliance from a suspect. However, once the force is applied, the deputy must give the suspect an opportunity to comply.
Rains countered that Petrov tried to get up at least twice during the confrontation, which, Rains said, shows he was not complying.
Tejada, however, maintained that he believed Petrov appeared to be attempting to surrender, adding that too much force on a suspect could cause them to react, or attempt to get away from the force, which could be misinterpreted as refusal to comply.
"We understand the relatively slight standard of evidence the people have to establish at this point so the holding order doesn't come as a surprise," Rains said today outside of court. "We think that under the law that governs use of force that the people are not going to be able to establish at trial enough evidence to establish guilt."
In April 2017, Alameda County agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Petrov, which alleged that while he lay in the alley with multiple fractures in both hands, suffering from a concussion and bleeding from multiple head lacerations, deputies stood around and exchanged "high fives" and took trophy photos of him.
The suit also alleged that a deputy at the scene, identified as former Deputy Shawn Osborne, stole a gold chain and cash from Petrov after he was beaten and gave the chain to witnesses in order to buy their silence.
Although the sheriff's office recommended that Petrov be charged with 12 offenses for allegedly stealing the car and ramming the patrol cars, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office declined to charge him with any offense.
However, Petrov remains in custody, facing gun and drug charges in a federal case following a March 8, 2016, search of his apartment by the FBI.
Since the incident, sheriff's officials said that they have increased training around use of force, examined the department's hiring practices and revised its body camera procedures to make it mandatory that deputies always turn them on when they're interacting with the public.
Santamaria and Wieber are free on bail and are expected to return to court April 16 for arraignment.