By Gina Kim
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Five felony charges for suspected burglary and stabbing a police officer were dropped last week by District Attorney Chesa Boudin after new photos raised concern for potential police brutality.
Pictures and an internal police report of last February’s arrest were recently obtained by a news outlet, and the disparity between the injuries of Sergio Lugo and that of the officer at the scene could suggest excessive force, police critics argue.
“If we were to look at those photos and not know the role of each of the portrayed people in them, I think anyone would look at them and assume that Mr. Lugo was the victim of a horrific assault,” stated Public Defender Alexandra Pray after her client was found with cuts, bruises, and a fractured left cheekbone. Newly recovered evidence suggests Lugo was punched “15 to 20 times.”
Meanwhile, one of the officers on the scene, Sgt. Alexander Lentz, walked away from the altercation with “minor cuts to his pinky finger and knee,” reported The San Francisco Standard.
Still, Boudin’s decision sparked major criticism from individuals like Police Officers Association President Tony Montoya, as well as Police Chief Bill Scott. Both have publicly announced their disapproval toward Boudin for dropping charges, claiming the prosecutor’s actions would only embolden criminals.
But later review of inconsistent police statements, surveillance footage, and captured audio from a residential Nest camera gave the prosecutor reason to drop charges, stated Rachel Marshall on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office.
Furthermore, Pray noted the sounds of punching, arguing the officer’s cuts were an accidental product of their “chaotic melee.”
Officer Griffin Glennon later stated he “feared for the life and safety” of his fellow officers, stepping in while Officers Lentz and Healy were restraining the defendant, and “striking Lugo’s face swiftly and aggressively.”
The officers were pursuing Lugo during a burglary surveillance operation in plainclothes—meaning body cameras were not required to be worn. No direct footage was acquired.
Pray filed a complaint with the Department of Police Accountability.
“The police had no right to detain, search, initiate force, and escalate force against Mr. Lugo who committed no crime,” she argued. “Police created this situation, and given the evidence, the prosecution finally did the right thing and dismissed these charges.”