By: Megan Cassidy, 12/15/2020
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin filed felony battery and assault charges Monday against a police officer he said unnecessarily and violently beat a Black man at Fisherman’s Wharf last year.
Terrance Stangel is the third current or former SFPD officer that Boudin is prosecuting in a use-of-force case as part of his campaign to hold police accountable for wrongdoing. A judge on Monday signed a warrant for Stangel’s arrest, and Stangel’s attorney said the officer will surrender and fight the charges.
“Officers responding to a call have a duty to promote public safety — not to turn to violence as a show of authority,” Boudin said in a statement. “This case is an example of an officer unnecessarily escalating a situation and then violently beating a Black man whom he had no legal basis to even arrest.”
According to prosecutors, victim Dacari Spiers was on a date with his girlfriend at Fisherman’s Wharf on the evening of October 7, 2019, when officers Stangel and Cuahtemoc Martinez responded to a 911 call of a man assaulting a woman.
Prosecutors said the officers were directed to Spiers and his girlfriend, “who were standing close to each other and talking.” Police did not witness any physical violence or unlawful conduct between the two, the District Attorney’s Office said.
Much of the incident was captured on police body cameras, prosecutors said, which show police ordering Spiers to turn around without responding to his and his girlfriend’s questions about what he had done.
“Officer Martinez immediately tried to grab Mr. Spiers, who insisted he had not done anything, and officers ignored Mr. Spiers’s girlfriend, who was screaming, ‘No!’ and ‘What did he do?’” officials from the District Attorney’s Office stated.
Prosecutors said Stangel struck Spiers from behind with a baton, and struck his legs multiple times after Martinez took Spiers to the ground. Martinez did not strike Spiers and was not criminally charged.
Stangel was charged with four felonies: battery with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury — with an allegation that he did in fact cause great bodily injury — and assault under the color of authority.
The charges against Stangel set the stage for three separate criminal trials of police officers in San Francisco courts.
The district attorney’s action comes a week after a grand jury indicted SFPD officer Christopher Flores and the man he shot at, Jamaica Hampton, on assault charges stemming from a violent confrontation last year in the Mission District.
Last month, in another case, Boudin charged former rookie police Officer Christopher Samayoa with manslaughter and other crimes in the 2017 fatal shooting of Keita O’Neil.
Stangel’s attorney, Nicole Pifari, said Stangel, a five-year police veteran at the time of the incident, was protecting his partner after they responded to reports of a domestic violence incident. She said Spiers ignored police commands and grabbed Martinez when Martinez touched his arm.
The two began “violently grappling with each other,” Pifari said, prompting Stangel to call on the radio for backup and then come to Martinez’s aid. She said Stangel told her “he was tossing (Martinez) around like a rag doll.”
She accused Boudin of being “on a mission to charge as many cops as possible, regardless of the facts. It’s a disturbing trend, and it’s dangerous.”
In a statement, San Francisco Police Officers Association President Tony Montoya accused Boudin of “headline chasing.”
“The district attorney is doing all he can to try this case in the public and not the courtroom and he’s withholding all of the facts while doing so,” Montoya said.
Local civil rights activists lauded what they called a historic decision to file charges against an officer accused of brutality against a Black man.
“Growing up in the 1970s in San Francisco seeing police commit violence on Black men and never being held accountable made me feel like being Black meant we were less than,” said Gloria Berry, chair of the Black Lives Matter San Francisco County Central Committee and member of the District Attorney’s Office’s African American Advisory Board.
“Today I have tears in my eyes to hear that under the Office of the San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin officers are being charged, history is being made, and Black people are finally being seen.”
The charges come after Spiers filed a civil lawsuit claiming excessive use of force and police misconduct against the city. The case is pending in federal court, and the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office has denied nearly every allegation listed in the complaint.
Spiers estimated he was struck between 10 and 15 times with a baton, including at least once when he was handcuffed, the suit said. Officers additionally kicked and hit him and threw him to the ground without explanation, according to Spiers’ attorneys.
The incident resulted in a broken leg and wrist — both of which required surgery — and a laceration on his leg that required stitches, the suit states.
The case is being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office’s Independent Investigation Bureau, which investigates police shootings and other serious use-of-force incidents. Prosecutors said they will not request Stangel be detained during pretrial proceedings.