Alameda County Deputies Plead Not Guilty in Videotaped S.F. Beating

Frame from video showing Alameda County sheriff's deputies beating car theft suspect Stanislav Petrov on Nov. 12, 2015.  (San Francisco Public Defender)

Two Alameda County sheriff's deputies facing felony charges in the beating of a suspect following a high-speed chase last November pleaded not guilty Thursday in  San Francisco Superior Court.

Deputy Luis Santamaria, a 14-year-veteran of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, and Deputy Paul Wieber, a three-year veteran, were charged earlier this month with assault under color of authority, battery with serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon.

The charges resulted from a beating videotaped last Nov. 12 after deputies had pursued car theft suspect Stanislav Petrov, 29, from unincorporated San Leandro into San Francisco.

The pursuit ended near Stevenson and 14th streets in San Francisco's Mission District after Petrov ran out of gas and crashed the car. The beating occurred a short distance away at the corner of Stevenson and Clinton Park. Petrov suffered injuries, including a concussion, broken bones in both hands, a mild traumatic brain injury and deep cuts to his head.

The incident came to light after San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released surveillance video of the beating, calling for charges to be filed against the deputies.

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Defense attorney Michael Rains, who is representing Santamaria, said videos of police use of force are always disturbing -- but that doesn't mean the depicted use of force is illegal.

"It's the reality of police work today, when police force is captured people say, 'That looks terrible,' " Rains said.

Rains said the deputies were "very concerned" that Petrov might have a weapon during the pursuit and arrest.

William Rapoport, who is representing Wieber, noted that unrelated federal gun and drug charges are pending against Petrov, who has an extensive criminal record.

"I think the focus on these two is a little misplaced," Rapoport said of the deputies.

Adachi, who described the incident as one of the "most savage beatings in the annals of police misconduct," said it appeared the defense would be that Petrov "is a bad person."

"But we have to remember that in the American justice system, the police are not the judge and jury, it's not their job to decide who should be executed on the spot or who should be beaten," Adachi said. "No matter who that was, they didn't deserve to be treated that way."

Ken Williams, a former homicide detective and use-of-force expert who attended Thursday's appearance with Adachi as an observer, called the surveillance video "disgraceful."

Williams noted that even after Petrov was under control and handcuffed, officers failed to call for an ambulance and at one point one of them placed a foot on his neck.

"It shows excessive force, it shows a callousness toward life, and policing isn't about that, shouldn't be about that," Williams said. "The public should demand better."

The two deputies, who are on paid administrative leave, are out on bail. They appeared in court Thursday, wearing dark suits and tense expressions, but their attorneys won the court's permission for them to skip some future court dates.

Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern has said that Santamaria and Wieber are also the subject of an internal affairs investigation that could result in termination or having their pay reduced.

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This post contains material reported by Bay City News.

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