By Marisa Mazza
A trial opened last week where the charges included attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, domestic violence, child endangerment, and resisting arrest.
During the incident in question, the complaining witness (the defendant’s girlfriend), ran to a neighbor’s house and asked for help and for them to call the police. The neighbor called the police and when they arrived on the scene they moved the defendant to the opposite side of the street while one of the officers talked to the defendant’s girlfriend. From a video shown in court, two officers began to talk to the defendant on the opposite side of the street and then started to yell at him to get on his knees. The officer who was talking to the defendant’s girlfriend heard the commotion and went over to “assist.” A fourth officer arrived on the scene, as each of the defendant’s arms were being held by an officer and he was taken down to the ground. At some point additional officers arrived and there were multiple officers holding down the defendant’s legs, arms, and pushing his face into the concrete. One officer said that pepper spray was needed and the defendant was then pepper sprayed twice. Throughout the events, an officer continued to say “stop resisting” even while the defendant was subdued on the ground with multiple officers on top of him.
Assistant District Attorney Katherine Wells opened by arguing that the defendant came from Sacramento to San Francisco where his girlfriend was staying with their shared child, at her mother’s house. Wells continued by saying that the defendant had come to the city to take his girlfriend and child back with him and maintained that throughout the scene, which occurred in front of where his girlfriend was staying, he was pulling and pushing his girlfriend, who was holding their child, to his car that was parked a block away. Wells argued that the defendant did not obey police orders and that the officers did what they needed to do to make him comply with their commands.
Deputy Public Defender Bonnie Chan opened by arguing that the defendant was a concerned father trying to get his girlfriend and child back to the safety of his girlfriend’s mother’s house after his girlfriend ran erratically into the street, where there were cars passing, with their child in her arms. Chan explained that this had been the second time that day in which the complaining witness had run out in to the street where there was oncoming traffic. Chan argued that the defendant showed good faith by trying to comply with police commands and that the force used on the defendant by the police was excessive.
ADA Wells called Officer Richard Trujillo as her first witness. Trujillo explained that he was the first officer to arrive on scene and that dispatch told him there had been a 911 call about a kidnapping with a struggle between a male and a female involving a child. He testified that he did not recall a leg sweep being done on the defendant but that the defendant kept moving around. Trujillo said that the defendant was so strong when moving his body weight around that it caused the defendant and all four officers to fall to the ground. Trujillo also explained that he held the defendant’s left arm throughout the incident and that he heard when one of the officers said they needed to use pepper spray, but did not see them use pepper spray on the defendant.