SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Two Northern California sheriff’s deputies were charged with felonies Tuesday for the beating of a suspected car thief in an incident captured on surveillance video and circulated widely online.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced that Alameda County sheriff’s deputies Luis R. Santamaria and Paul D. Wieber were each charged with assault with a deadly weapon, assault under color of authority and battery.
Two residents’ surveillance cameras captured deputies continuing to beat the suspect with steel batons as he lay on the ground, crying out in pain. In addition, Gascon said one of the deputies’ body-worn cameras appears to have accidentally turned on.
“I’m sorry,” Stanislav Petrov could be heard screaming on one of the videos. “Help me.”
The incident began Nov. 12 in the parking lot of a San Leandro motel on the east side of San Francisco Bay. That’s where Alameda County deputies say they spotted Petrov behind the wheel of a stolen Mercedes Benz.
Deputies attempted to block Petrov’s exit from the parking lot with their patrol cars, but the suspect rammed the vehicles and sped away. The Mercedes allegedly grazed a deputy standing next to his patrol car as it sped out of the parking lot.
Deputies chased the Mercedes across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, reaching speeds of 100 mph, before Petrov allegedly abandoned the vehicle in the city’s Mission District and tried to flee on foot.
Deputies can be seen in two surveillance videos running down Petrov in a desolate alley and beating him for about 40 seconds. The two stopped beating Petrov after other officers arrived.
Gascon said Santamaria and Wieber plan to turn themselves in Wednesday. Santamaria has been a deputy for nearly 15 years. Wieber has served three years.
Michael Rains, an attorney who represents Santamaria, said the deputy’s actions “were in accordance with the law which authorizes law enforcement officers to use reasonable force to make an arrest, to overcome resistance, and to prevent suspects from escaping.”
Rains said all video of police using force “is graphic and ugly” even when appropriately used. He said Santamaria has never been disciplined for excessive force.
Bill Rapoport, who represents Wieber, didn’t return a call.
Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahearn said that the deputies “will have to answer for their actions.”
He said both men have been on paid administrative leave and are being investigated by the agency’s internal affairs division.
Gascon said his office is also investigating other Alameda County sheriff’s deputies for “additional allegations related to false police statements, theft, bribery, witness tampering, and/or other wrongdoing related to this case.”
A third deputy has also been placed on administrative leave after reports that he allegedly stole a gold chain and money from Petrov and gave them to a homeless couple who witnessed the incident. Gascon said his office continues to investigate that allegation.
“The whole incident is very disturbing,” Gascon said.