Two San Francisco-area sheriff’s deputies were charged with felony assault on Tuesday in connection with the beating of a suspect last year that was captured on video.
The charges add to the scrutiny of police use of excessive force after the killings of several unarmed suspects, which have triggered protests across the country over the past two years.
The two Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies, Luis Santamaria and Paul Wieber, were charged with one count each of assault under color of authority, assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury in the arrest of Stanislav Petrov, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
“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,” District Attorney George Gascón said.
Santamaria’s lawyer, Michael Rains, said in a statement he was confident the deputy’s actions were lawful.
“I am very much aware that any use of force captured visually and audibly is graphic and ugly, even though it may be lawful in every aspect,” Rains said.
The Sheriff’s Office said that early on the morning of November 12, Petrov fled from police in a suspected stolen car, caused a deputy to suffer minor injuries after he rammed a police cruiser, and led officers on a high-speed chase before he crashed into a parked car and fled on foot.
A security camera video, which went viral after it was uploaded on YouTube the day after the incident by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, shows Petrov running into an alley, where he is tackled by one of the two deputies.
The video shows the deputies punching and hitting Petrov with batons at least three dozen times as he screams “I’m sorry,” “Help me,” and “Oh my God.” Petrov tries to stand, then seems to surrender while shielding himself from the blows.
The District Attorney’s Office said Petrov suffered a concussion, multiple broken bones in both hands, a mild traumatic brain injury, and deep lacerations to his head.
Authorities are also investigating separate allegations that a veteran deputy bribed witnesses to the beating, a claim Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern called “horrific.”
The District Attorney’s Office said deputies Santamaria, a 14-year veteran, and Wieber, a three-year veteran, would surrender by the end of Wednesday and will have bail set at $140,000.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Dan Grebler and Alan Crosby)