The Alameda County sheriff launched an investigation Friday after a video showing two deputies tackling and beating a man on the ground in San Francisco’s Mission District went public, raising questions whether there was an excessive use of force.
The San Francisco Public Defender’s office released the video Friday night after witnesses to the arrest contacted them with concerns. Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the two deputies clearly used excessive force in an encounter that was “reminiscent of Rodney King.”
The video shows the deputies chasing after a man at the corner of Clinton Park and Stevenson Street at about 2:05 a.m. Thursday. One deputy jumps on the man, knocking him down, and goes on to punch him twice while he was still on the ground.
He gets off as the second deputy pulls out his baton, and uses it to strike the man on the head. The video jumps 10 seconds to both deputies using their batons on the man as he struggled on his knees and screamed for help.
The video jumps once more to show the man on his knees with his hands on his head, and one deputy pushing him to the ground so he and the other deputy could continue hitting him with their batons.
Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, said the encounter captured on video was the culmination of a 38-minute car chase from the East Bay.
Deputies approached the man, who was sitting in a reportedly stolen car in the parking lot of the Travelers Inn on Foothill Boulevard in San Leandro, about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, Nelson said.
The man, who Nelson did not identify Friday, then used the car to ram two patrol cars, knocking down and injuring one deputy.
With one patrol car disabled, the second deputy was able to get into the other damaged patrol car and start the pursuit.
“Then we start on a 38-minute chase that went from San Leandro, to Oakland, through the streets of Oakland, onto the freeway, over the Bay Bridge and through downtown San Francisco and finally onto Stevenson Street, where the man crashes his car and gets out and starts running,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the deputies that chase after him believed the man was armed, and investigators later recovered a gun. Nelson said he did not know if the gun was on the man when he was arrested, or elsewhere.
The man was transported to San Francisco General Hospital for treatment, and has since been released and booked into custody at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
The deputies involved filed use-of-force reports disclosing that they deployed their batons, Nelson said, and indicated that they believed the man was on drugs and that they did not know what he was capable of.
“Unfortunately, the video doesn’t seem to be 100 percent complete,” he said. “We’re not getting the entire picture. With that said, the sheriff has ordered a complete and immediate investigation. We want to see if there is any other video, and if we can get the complete video without the breaks in it, as well as any other body camera video that might have been in play by those deputies, the other deputies that responded or by San Francisco police.”
But Adachi said the deputies’ actions in the video are clear.
“From what you can see on the video, he’s turning the corner and they’re able to subdue him,” he said. “They clearly had him on the ground. He didn’t pose any threat at that point, and they are clearly using excessive force and trying to seriously hurt him when he was on the ground and subdued. I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t be handcuffed and taken into custody. The blows, after they took him to the ground, were excessive by any measure, any standard. It’s shocking to see.”