SAN FRANCISCO - A homeless man in San Francisco was acquitted of making criminal threats to his neighbor who had long complained about the man’s mess on the sidewalk, after jurors saw footage of a police officer appearing to intentionally turn off his body camera while investigating the case.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced that jurors on Tuesday on found Amie Mangisel, 53, not guilty of criminal threats and attempted criminal threats, both felonies.
Jurors ended up convicting Mangisel on one misdemeanor brandishing a weapon charge. On Thursday, he was in custody on that charge and wasn't immediately available for comment.
Mangisel faced up to three years in prison if he had been convicted on the felony charges stemming from his arrest on Oct. 18, 2017 and a prior weeks-long dispute with a neighbor..
The deputy public defender arguing the case noticed a two-minute black hole in the body camera video sent over to them by the police department. And she argued in court that the gap must have been a conspiracy between the officer and the neighbor to figure out how to get Mangisel off the streets and into jail
“The jurors believed the complaining witness was lying and they were extremely troubled by the officer turning off his body camera," said Deputy Public Defender Abigail Rivamonte. "They wanted to trust the word of the police officer, and they would have done so if he left his camera running. Those two minutes were crucial in determining whether a threat had been made."
The officer was identified in court as San Francisco Police Officer Nicholas Hooley.
In an email sent on Thursday, San Francisco Police Officer Giselle Linnane told KTVU: "The San Francisco Police Department has a body worn camera policy. Our officers are required to follow the provisions and procedures of the policy. The incident is under investigation."
The police department did not answer KTVU's question on whether Hooley was disciplined. On the stand, Hooley testified he did not know his camera was turned off.
The District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond for comment about the acquittal.
Adachi’s office provided a 48-second clip of the body camera interview to KTVU, which is edited and has no sound until the very end because the camera had turned off and it takes about 30 seconds to start buffering again. The interaction shows the upset neighbor claiming that Mangisel said he was going to ‘f---ing kill me’ and the officer asking for the neighbor to email him video evidence of that statement because that could result in a felony. The video also captures the officer saying, "we're back on."
While researching the case, Rivamonte noticed that there was a two-minute gap of black between the initial encounter with the neighbor and this interaction.
As Rivamonte argued the case in court, Mangisel is originally from the Philippines and is a legal resident who has lived in a tiny, makeshift wooden dwelling on the sidewalk outside his mother’s home on Shafter Avenue in the Bayview for years.
A neighbor had repeatedly called city services to remove his dwelling and his mess.
Two weeks before Mangisel’s arrest, the neighbor approached Mangisel as he was fixing up his living area and told him to get his belongings off the sidewalk. When the neighbor kicked a plate of food Mangisel’s mother prepared for him, Rivamonte said the 103-pound Mangisel allegedly chased the neighbor away with a hammer. Police declined to arrest either man.
On the day he was arrested, Mangisel was frantically throwing all of his possessions off the sidewalk after having been falsely told by Hooley that the Department of Public Works was coming to take his belongings, according to the public defender’s office.
The neighbor began filming the homeless man.
Mangisel shouted, “Why are you taking my picture? You’re the one that kicked my food!”
Mangisel briefly chased him away with a metal rod. The neighbor never stopped recording and Mangisel stopped running after a few seconds and turned away.
The neighbor called police and Hooley, who was nearby, responded along with several other officers.
And although the neighbor told Hooley that Mangisel had threatened him, the public defender argued there was no evidence of that and that the neighbor did not appear frightened, as he could be heard humming a tune throughout the encounter.
“Body worn cameras are there to protect both police and the public," Adachi said. "If officers are hiding evidence by turning them off, that’s the same thing as concealing evidence.”