On Wednesday, May 15th, a Placer County jury acquitted Rocklin Police Officer Brad Alford on felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assault under color of authority, as well as a separate misdemeanor assault count. The jury reached these unanimous findings after only two hours of deliberations.
The charges were the result of a violent confrontation between Officer Alford and a gang member that was captured on video. RLS founding principal Mike Rains was lead counsel on the case. He was assisted by RLS partner Justin Buffington. For Rains this result marked yet another victory in a career that has included some of the most high-profile and challenging police cases in California history.
Officer Alford sent this poignant message soon after his dramatic exoneration:
“Waking up this morning and sleeping better than I have in a long time. I feel so grateful for you men and this firm. God brought you into my life when I was at my lowest and felt pretty helpless.”
The jury heard evidence over a two-week period and then rendered these verdicts in a stinging rebuke to the Placer County District Attorney’s Office’s hasty decision to charge Officer Alford for using his baton to subdue a Norteño gang member. The suspect had attempted to avoid arrest on a no-bail warrant by leading officers on a short pursuit. He was driving on a suspended license with a blood alcohol level of .14 and having also smoked marijuana.
Video evidence showed that the suspect was actively resisting arrest by kicking at Officer Alford. The officers on scene believed that he had possibly armed himself before stepping out of his car.
RLS Investigator Bob McFarlane conducted a meticulous technical analysis of the five separate video recordings of the incident and assembled a unified synchronization that clearly depicted the suspect’s aggression and Officer Alford’s response.
Careful examination of the video evidence revealed that Officer Alford swung his baton at the resisting suspect an estimated fifteen times in the span of twenty-two seconds, while giving no less than fifteen verbal commands for the suspect to “quit fighting” and “turn on your stomach.” Mr. McFarlane opined that of the 15 baton swings, perhaps eight could be determined to have actually struck the suspect in either his arms or his legs while he was kicking in the direction of Officer Alford.
This case represented a severe overreaction by both the Rocklin Police Department and the Placer County District Attorney’s Office, fueled by the sensational nature of the video of the incident. The D.A. filed felony criminal charges against Officer Alford a mere two days after the event, having only conducted a cursory appraisal of the evidence and no detailed evaluation of the perceptions of Officer Alford and the two other officers who were present. The District Attorney’s Office also failed to consult with a use of force expert before arresting and booking Officer Alford.
Fortunately for Brad Alford, and to their great credit, the jury paid attention to the facts and followed the law in quickly rejecting these serious charges.
Mike Rains is a principal and founding member of Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, PC. He heads the firm’s Criminal Defense and Legal Defense of Peace Officers Practice Groups. Mike is one of California’s top trial attorneys.
Justin Buffington is a partner specializing in the firm’s Legal Defense of Peace Officers Practice Group and also works with the Litigation and Criminal Defense Practice Groups.
Bob McFarlane is an investigator with the firm, specializing in complex matters including serious criminal cases, high-profile disciplinary actions and forensic video analysis.