In July of 2016, while serving a warrant at the home of Eduardo Letelier in Davis, two Davis police officers punched the man three times in total, according to a video and transcripts from the trial.
Eduardo Letelier, then 43 years old, was arrested and accused of child molestation of a four-year-old girl in a high profile case involving a Davis daycare center. He was also charged with resisting arrest. Earlier this year, Mr. Letelier was acquitted of the charge of resisting, while the jury ended up hanging 9-3 on the main charge in favor of innocence, and the DA last summer allowed Mr. Letelier to plead to a misdemeanor child endangerment charge that does not require registration, rather than retry him.
It was during the course of the arrest that the video shows Officer Ryan Bellamy, the same officer who was one of the three Picnic Day officers involved in the incident at College Park and Russell, approach Mr. Letelier as shown on body camera video.
The video shows Officer Bellamy call out to Eduardo, whom he knew because officers had raided the Letelier home once before, two years ago, as they ransacked the place in a failed attempt to located stolen property. This time Officer Bellamy yells out “Donde Eduardo?” and then you hear, “he’s running!”
But by the time the officer reaches the back gate, you appear to see Mr. Letelier simply standing there with his hands in the air. Officer Bellamy runs up to him and punches him in the face, knocking the man to the ground.
At this point, joined by several other officers including Justin Raymond, they attempt to put handcuffs on him. Off camera, Officer Raymond then punches Mr. Letelier in the head, who is on his stomach with several officers on top of him.
At one point an officer is heard saying, “Stop resisting!”
Mr. Letelier yells, “I’m not!”
Eventually, Mr. Letelier has his hands secured in the handcuffs and eventually had to be taken to the hospital due to his injuries. The booking photos show abrasions and bruises on both sides of his face.
During the trial that occurred this past April, officers on the stand were confronted with this evidence but denied punching Mr. Letelier.
Trial transcripts were obtained by the Vanguard, and under cross-examination from defense attorney Michael Chastaine they reveal the following.
Mr. Chastaine points to the ten-second mark in the video and says, “You can clearly see Mr. Letelier’s hands up, correct?”
Officer Bellamy acknowledged this, but then Mr. Chastaine continues, “And in fact, immediately after that you punched him in the face, didn’t you?”
Officer Bellamy: No. I forced him to the ground.
Michael Chastaine: Are you saying you never punched him in the face?
Officer Bellamy: Yes.
After playing the video, Mr. Chastaine asks: Okay. What was that?
Officer Bellamy: Me pushing him to the ground.
During the cross-examination, Mr. Chastaine also played the video from Sgt. Michael Munoz, of which we do not have a copy. That video shows the two punches thrown by Officer Justin Raymond. The transcripts show that, around 13 seconds into the video, Mr. Chastaine asks: “That’s him punching Mr. Letelier in the face, isn’t it?”
Officer Bellamy: “I never saw him punch him in the face, and you’re showing me an image of his hip, trying to ask me what another officer was doing, but I didn’t see anything. I don’t know what he was doing.”
Later, when Justin Raymond was on the stand, he also denied seeing Officer Bellamy punch Mr. Letelier: “I don’t recall Detective Bellamy punching him.”
Mr. Chastaine: And we can also see the left hand also in the air. You see the bottom of his elbow, right?
Justin Raymond: I think so.
Mr. Chastaine: Okay. Well, I mean, he had his hands up, didn’t he? You don’t disagree with that, right?
Justin Raymond: It looks like it here. Sure.
Mr. Chastaine: All right. So there he is. As Officer Bellamy comes to him, hands are still in the air, right?
Justin Raymond: Looks like it.
Mr. Chastaine: So where I am confused is, in your report you say, “Eduardo stopped running and reached his right and left hand toward his front waist.” When did that happen?
However, Raymond did admit he punched Mr. Lelelier – but three rather than two times. “So within the first 20 seconds you already were punching him?”
“Right,” the officer responded.
“Right,” he said.
The officer, however, was never able to find the point where he punched Mr. Letelier on the (Munoz) video. “I feel like I have done my best to answer it that he was punched prior to being handcuffed, and the video that you’re showing doesn’t show that. The video isn’t going to show some things, and that’s one of them. He did get punched, but you can’t see it.”
The defense believed all along that Officer Raymond just punched him twice and he was covering for and accounting for Officer Bellamy’s punch, which he denied seeing, by claiming to have punched Mr. Letelier three times.
“I never understood why he covered for Bellamy,” Mr. Chastaine told the Vanguard.
Michael Chastaine explained that Eduardo Letelier testified during his trial, and testified to the fact that Ryan Bellamy punched him in the face. “If you watch the video really carefully and move it through slow motion – it looks like he punches him.”
However, Ryan Bellamy continued to deny it under oath. Mr. Chastaine told the Vanguard, “In my opinion he lied through his teeth.” He claimed and he wrote in his police report (as did Justin Raymond) that Mr. Letelier had his hands in his pants.
Mr. Raymond wrote: “I saw Eduardo was trying to push his way back up using his left hand while shoving his right hand deeper into his waistband.”
That was the reason for pushing him to the ground because Raymond was afraid Letelier was going to get a weapon. “You look at the (still) photo, it’s clear that Eduardo has his hands up the entire time.”
As Mr. Chastaine explained, “We went through the video frame by frame with Bellamy, in front of the jury.”
He added, “There wasn’t a thing that Bellamy said that I thought was true.” He said, “He would never concede what was shown to him on the tape.”
Mr. Chastaine explained that he kept trying to ask both officers to identify when Mr. Letelier’s hands were in his pants. “What he wrote in his report was something that was completely contradictory and untrue,” he said.
Michael Chastaine believes you can see the Justin Raymond punch, as well. “You see the arm, or more the elbow thrusting forward – boom, boom. The way he’s laying on him, it’s real clear he’s punching him.”
He added, “When they’re done with him, his face (Eduardo’s) is all bruised. So we know he got punched in the face.
“The issue wasn’t whether Raymond punched him – he clearly did, and he acknowledged that – the question is whether he punched him because Eduardo was resisting or not. While he’s punching him, Eduardo’s hands are behind his back in the process of being handcuffed and he’s going ‘I’m not resisting, I’m not resisting.’”
Chastaine later told the Vanguard, “In my opinion Eduardo is 100 percent innocent. The fact that he had to ultimately plead to a misdemeanor never has sat well with me.”
However, he said, “After going through a trial, we just didn’t think that he could withstand the stress of going through another one. He plead to a non-registerable misdemeanor with credit for time served. It’s almost like it was an insurance policy.”
He explained that he has been an attorney for 32 years, “and I rarely say this about clients,” “I’ve represented thousands of people and I will rarely say that I 100 percent believe that person is innocent but I absolutely believe that Eduardo was innocent.”
Michael Chastaine believes that the officers here took a case where a man was accused of child molestation and simply administered “street justice,” trying to justify it with a claim of resisting arrest. Mr. Chastaine explained, “This happens all the time.” He said, “The cops beat the crap out of somebody and then they charge him with resisting arrest. I see that all the time.”
With body cameras these days, he said, “I see more and more often, the guys aren’t resisting. They are just laying into him.”
Based on a tip from the Vanguard, the Davis Police Department has opened an internal investigation into this incident, which is proceeding just as we await the results from the Picnic Day incident.
—David M. Greenwald reporting