Twenty-six more felony cases involving Mission Station plainclothes officers were dropped today by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon as Public Defender Jeff Adachi revealed yet another video appearing to show discrepancies between police reports and actual events. Matt Gonzalez, the chief attorney for the Public Defender’s office, accused Mission Station plainclothes officers of removing items that haven’t been accounted for from the home of Harvey Salazar, whose drug possession charge was among those dismissed today.
In total, 14 officers from the Mission and Southern stations have been accused by the Public Defender’s office of falsifying evidence, entering and searching residences without a warrant, and taking valuable property from citizens without booking it into evidence. According to Erica Derryck, a spokesperson for the District Attorney, 34 cases involving Mission officers under investigation have been dropped along with 85 cases involving officers from Southern station’s plainclothes unit.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the actions of the Southern plainclothes officers. It is not clear whether the FBI is also looking into allegations against the Mission station officers identified in recent weeks by Adachi’s office.
The latest video, taken from a San Francisco Police Department surveillance camera at Ellis and Jones Streets in the Tenderloin, documents an April 22, 2010 “buy-bust” operation where plainclothes Officer Ricard Guerrero (dressed in a dark sweater, jeans and a baseball cap in the video above) attempts to purchase drugs from Jesus Inastilla, (who is wearing a white t-shirt and talking on a cellphone held in his right hand).
Officer Peter Richardson’s police report provides one version of events:
“Inastrilla raised his right hand to his mouth and spit…off-white rock wrapped in plastic, suspected base rock cocaine, into his palm. Inastrilla handed the rock to Hernandez and ordered, ‘give this to him.’ Officer Guerrero followed Hernandez approxtimately fifteen feet west of Jones Street, on the south side of Ellis Street. Hernandez handed Officer Guerrero the rock of suspected bacse rock cocaine. Officer Guerrero handed Hernandez…$20.00, mkared city funds. Officer Guerrero walked away from Hernandez and gave us the pre-arranged buy signal.”
In the video, Inastilla holds his cellphone by his head with his right hand while speaking with Officer Guerrero, and does not raise that hand to his mouth as the police report indicates. He also does not appear to hand anything to Officer Hernandez, who is dressed in a light-colored jacket and walks off down the street with Guerrero.
Adachi said the San Francisco District Attorney has had video of the buy-bust operation since May 2010, but the Public Defender’s office obtained the video recently from a private attorney.
“This video opens up a whole new Pandora’s box,” said Adachi. “Police reports are clearly and unequivocably being falsified.” Adachi says his office is investigating roughly 6,900 incidents involving the officers identified in the incidents under question from both the Mission and Southern stations.
“This is not an isolated incident, Adachi said. The discrepancies between the surveillance video and the police report in the buy-bust incident, he continued, were warning signs ignored by both the District Attorney and SFPD.
The drug sales against 49-year-old Jesus Inastrilla and Saul Hernandez was dismissed last May by the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, when Officer Guerrero told the judge he could not locate the rock cocaine obtained during the operation. The video was provided to Adachi’s office earlier this month by Erica Franklin, Inastilla’s attorney, who also filed a complaint with the Office of Citizen Complaints, San Francisco’s independent police watchdog. OCC found that the officer’s statements did not match the video; SFPD are reportedly waiting on a determination of discipline in this case.
Officers Ricardo Guerrero, Jacob Fegan, Christopher Servat, Adam Kujath and Peter Richardson took part in the Tenderloin buy-bust operation caught on tape. Some of the officers were also implicated in what the Public Defender’s office describes as theft and illegal searches in the Julian and Jefferson hotels last week.
Guerrero, Sanchez, Fegan and Richardson, along with plainclothes Sergeant Kevin Healy were implicated in the theft of electronics from the residence of Harvey Salazar’s family. Sgt. Healy, a veteran plainclothes and narcotics detective, also works as an undercover decoy for SFPD’s controversial robbery abatement teams, which the Public Defender has accused of entrapping poor and homeless San Franciscans.
Javier Tenorio, Harvey Salazar’s stepfather, said Sgt. Healy stopped and searched him at the Jupiter corner store on Mission Street between Brazil and Norton Streets on August 19, 2010. Here are the key points of Tenorio’s declaration:
- Healy stopped, questioned and searched Tenorio without probable cause in the convenience store. When Tenorio complained that he didn’t consent to the search, Healy threatened to arrest him, took Tenorio’s keys and put them in his jacket pocket.
- Healy demanded to search Tenorio’s house after learning that his 32-year-old stepson, Harvey Salazar, lived with Javier and his wife, Mariette. According to Tenorio, Healy said he did not need a search warrant despite Tenorio’s protests that he wanted to see a search warrant.
- Healy used Tenorio’s keys to enter Tenorio’s house without a warrant and, along with Officers Sanchez, Guerrero, Fegan and Richardson, searched various rooms in the home. Healy kicked the open the door of Salazar’s room, and the officers left the house carrying several boxes the Tenorio’s claim contained five baseball hats, a jar full of quarters, an empty safe, a camera, 2 new iPods, a cellphone and shaving equipment.
“I was shocked, I was nervous,” said Javier Tenorio, who said the iPods were gifts for his grandson and held up two sets of earbuds as proof that the iPods had gone missing. The Tenorios filed a complaint with the Office of Citizen Complaints in February of this year. Salazar was arrested on drug charges stemming from the August 19, 2010 search on March 16 of this year.
Salazar, who appeared in court at the hall of justice wearing orange sweats and black-rimmed glasses, pressed his lips together and nodded his head as his case was dropped by the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. He was released from custody this afternoon, along with six other in-custody defendants whose cases were also vacated.
Rick Stow, a 57-year-old Dolores Park resident whose case for methamphetamine and marijuana possession was among the 26 cases dismissed this afternoon by the San Francisco District Attorney, said he was relieved to be through with the “nightmare” that was his case. Admitting that he was “no angel” and had been in possession of methamphetamine and several pounds of marijuana when arrested, Stow said a police informant had stolen an iPhone from his house and he was missing approximately $10,000 in cash seized by SFPD that had not been accounted for in evidence. Officers Fegan, Guerrero, Vargas, Kujath and Servet were involved in Stow’s case. “It’s a shame people do that,” said Stow, who says he has AIDS and cancer. “I didn’t think I’d live through this.”
According to SFPD spokesperson Lt. Troy Dangerfield, all fourteen of the officers involved in the Mission and Southern allegations have been reassigned either to patrol or administrative duty pending the outcome of a departmental investigation. SFPD also claimed the dropped cases can be refiled by the District Attorney’s office pending the outcome of the investigations. The following statement was released by Police Chief Greg Suhr:
“We want to emphasize that the men and women of the San Francisco Police Department are of the highest character. That said, the officers in these videos have the same rights as any other citizen. They are assumed innocent until proven guilty, and we are operating under that assumption.
If it is determined through the investigation that any officer is proven to be dishonest, in any way, they will be disciplined. This discipline will be swift and severe up to and including termination from the Police Department.
The hardworking men and women of the San Francisco Police Department will not tolerate dishonesty within their ranks. There is no place in this Department for dishonest Cops.”