Anthony Hernandez was arrested and spent a month in custody because of racial profiling and presumptions by the arresting officer. It might have been far worse had it not been for the persistence of his defense attorney, who kept demanding that prosecutors turn over body camera footage of the incident from the arresting officer.
Once the officer turned it over to the prosecutor’s office, almost immediately the Sacramento DA dropped the charges.
In September of 2018, a number of Sacramento police officers responded to Grand Avenue in Sacramento to conduct a probation search. They were aware of what they called a large gathering of Norteño gang members there celebrating a memorial for a recently deceased gang member.
The police arrested three individuals including Anthony Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez received three felonies for being a felon in possession of a firearm with gang enhancements. In total, nine firearms and two ounces of cocaine were located by the officers on the scene that evening.
According to a police report, when officers arrived, there were approximately 30 Norteño gang members who were present at the party. They made contact at the front with the residents, and some fled to the rear of the whom.
Officers purportedly observed one male Hispanic with clothing matching that of Mr. Hernandez run to the side of the yard and throw an object. They then located a pistol wrapped in a sock on the ground near a fence line.
When they re-entered the backyard, they contacted Mr. Hernandez, ordered him to sit on the ground and claim to have observed multiple .357 caliber pistol rounds on the ground where he was sitting.
Mr. Hernandez was arrested at 10:30 on September 21. Represented by Jennifer Mouzis, the key evidence they sought was body worn camera footage from Officers Bradley and Del Dotto, who were the arresting officer.
Ms. Mouzis would receive all of the footage except for that from Officer Bradley. She received a note from Deputy DA Jesse Saucedo that the body worn camera footage was “missing” and he would “send a District Attorney Investigator to locate the missing footage.”
Finally, on October 31, Officer Bradley’s body worn camera footage was discovered. Less than three hours later, the charges were dropped.
Ms. Mouzis has now filed a civil rights lawsuit for the illegal detention, unlawful arrest and unlawful incarceration of Anthony Hernandez.
The body worn camera footage shows that the events observed by Officer Bradley do not corroborate his later statements in his police report.
In the police report, he states: “As Officers approached the front of the house, I observed a MHA wearing an all-white [sic] long sleeve shirt running north through the back yard of715 Grand Avenue. He approached the chain link fence on the east side of the property, stopped, and then ran back south towards the front of the house. I was approximately 25 feet away and had a clear view of the subject from the alley through the chain link fence of 721 Grand Avenue.”
On the body worn camera footage, Officer Bradley is heard saying, “There was another dude running with a white t-shirt on and he ran up to that chain link fence, I think he dumped something next door and came back.”
He repeatedly referenced a guy in a white t-shirt.
After some time of searching, Officer Bradley located a firearm inside a sock at the fence line. Officer Bradley is heard saying, “It was somebody in white, but I can’t tell you who it was.” Officer Bradley then pointed his flashlight at Mr. Hernandez’s back and says, “It was probably this guy. Yeah, I think that was him.”
The body worn camera, however, shows Mr. Hernandez calmly sitting down with a cigarette in his hand, fully cooperating with the officer’s requests during the course of the search.
When confronted by Officer Bradley about the gun, Mr. Hernandez adamantly denied it was him.
Officer Bradley stated that he saw Mr. Hernandez and he had it on his camera. Mr. Hernandez told the officer to watch the video, because it would show it was not him.
He said, “Play it back. It wasn’t me.”
In her email to Deputy DA Jesse Saucedo, Ms. Mouzis stated, “Have you had an opportunity to watch the last BWC video you sent over? It exonerates my client.”
She noted that in this video, the officer “points out a different person in a white t shirt as the person he thinks, he feels, etc. hit the fence. A totally different person.” (Emphasis in original).
She continued: “This scene was chaotic and that somewhere in the chaos, the officers ended up thinking my client was the person in the white shirt. That does not excuse an arrest, and more importantly, incarceration since the time of arrest.”
Ms. Mouzis notes her complaint that Mr. Hernandez “was in custody for 29 additional days due to Officer Bradley’s ‘missing’ (Body Worn Camera).”
She writes, “Counsel is informed and believes that in order to avoid uploading the footage, the wearer, Officer Bradley, would have to have avoided bringing the camera near the docking station.”
Ms. Mouzis argues that the police “knowingly disregarded Mr. Hernandez’s rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
She points out he was “detain and interrogated” in a case that lacked “reasonable suspicion to belief that a specific crime had been committed.”
She writes, “The evidence showed that the officer, by his own admissions, had absolutely no idea who committed the crime for which Mr. Hernandez was arrested. Case law makes clear that ‘I think that is the guy’ does not meet the standard for probable cause. The actions of the officer to arrest anyone violated both Mr. Hernandez’s procedural and substantive due process rights. This is not a case where a few of Mr. Hernandez’s rights were disregarded. Mr. Hernandez was arrested based upon no direct or circumstantial evidence and then incarcerated based a no probable cause in violation of his constitutional rights.”
Attorney Jennifer Mouzis told the Vanguard, “There is something wrong with our system when an officer can arrest someone without any suspicion that the person committed a crime, say as much on their body camera, and be able to cover up the wrongful arrest by withholding the body camera from the prosecution for forty-six days while the person sits in custody facing prison for a crime that they did not commit.”
She said, “That is exactly what Officer Bradley was able to do to Mr. Hernandez. In doing so, Officer Bradley not only arrested an innocent man, he took an innocent man away from his young son, his family, and caused the loss of his job.
“On September 21, 2018, Officer Bradley set in motion a series of events in Mr. Hernandez’s life that can never be undone.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting