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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Public Defender Alleges Cops Stole From Child's Piggy Bank, Used Excessive Force (VIDEO)

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 5:54 PM

Charles Tran (at podium) alleges excessive force by SFPD at today's press conference
  • Charles Tran (at podium) alleges excessive force by SFPD at today's press conference

Update 5 p.m.: SFPD department spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak says Chief Suhr will forward the theft allegations onto the FBI, which is investigating previous criminal misconduct allegations brought forward by Public Defender Jeff Adachi last spring. The SFPD internal affairs department continues with an administrative investigation of potential policy violations. Andraychak reiterated, "There's no place in the SFPD for dishonest cops." Meanwhile, Andraychak says some of the officers "on the periphery" of the past episodes have been put back on active duty, while others remain on administrative jobs in civilian attire.
Andraychak defends the officers' actions in detaining Charles Tran. "It did appear he had a fighting stance and leaned in. We're not required to wait until someone hits us to protect ourselves." The police report says the officers responding to the scene of a fight were informed Tran had a box-cutter: "That's what the officers would have had in mind when they arrived on the scene."

Original story: Less than a week away from Election Day, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who is running for mayor, alleged San Francisco Police Department officers stole evidence totaling thousands of dollars during searches, including $500 from a child's piggy bank.

He also released surveillance tape that indicates police lied about the behavior of a Richmond District merchant before officers detained him. SFPD spokespeople have not yet responded to SF Weekly's requests for comment. 

The victims have filed complaints about the alleged incidents with the Office of Citizen Complaints, the civilian body that investigates police misconduct. The theft allegations include cops taking thousands of dollars and a Nokia Internet Tablet during vehicle and home searches -- all of which was never booked into evidence nor returned to the owners, Adachi said. 

The theft allegations involve five officers from Mission Station who are already under internal SFPD and FBI investigation for similar behavior that were caught on surveillance tapes that Adachi released last spring. Today, Adachi called for a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to lying on police reports, and an investigation of the new instances of alleged misconduct. 

The mayoral candidate shrugged off the suggestion that the timing of the announcement coincides with the election. "I'm a public defender. I have an obligation to protect the public. I did consider delaying it until after the election, but after meeting with the individuals they expressed they wanted to move forward." 

According to a police report written by Richmond District Officer Kevin Ison released at the press conference, officers were responding to a call on August 11 about a possible fight at Fifth Avenue and Clement Street between Charles Tran, who owned a supermarket there, and a male who'd apparently delivered the wrong produce. The report states: "I observed Tran become aggressive and take a fighting stances towards Officer Filamor. I also noticed Tran, ball up his right fist while Ofc. Filamor was attempting to speak to him." 

But in the surveillance footage Adachi played, the 44-year-old Tran didn't look like a physical threat; he looked frustrated and like a man trying to explain his side. He never balls his fist, but raises an open flat hand to waist level like a politician making a point. At that moment, Officer Joseph Filamor slaps the hand out of the way and then pushes Tran to the wall and cuffs him.

The theft allegations came to the public defender's attention through criminal cases involving his clients. But Adachi says Tran came to his office independently after being

detained outside his store with allegedly excessive force.


Here are the public defender's descriptions of the five alleged thefts:

  • Rick Short, who alleges that officers stole $10,000 in cash from a safe in is bedroom during the execution of a search warrant on Apr. 30, 2011. Short's case has been dismissed. His story is corroborated by witnesses. Officers involved in his case are Michael Wibunsin, Peter Richardson, Ricardo Guerrero, Robert Sanchez, and Jacob Fegan. 

  • Joe Melvin, who was not charged with a crime, alleges officers stole $300 and a Nokia Internet Tablet while he was detained during a search of his apartment in 2011. Melvin's roommate was the subject of the search warrant. Officers involved in the search were Jacob Fegan, Ricardo Guerrero, Peter Richardson, Robert Sanchez, Kevin Healy, Jeffrey Cuenca, and John Cvetovac. 

  • Stanton, whose $650 in cash disappeared after police conducted on Aug. 4, 2010 raid on his roommate. Stanton was never charged in connection with the raid. His story is corroborated by witnesses. Officers involved in the search were Jacob Fegan, Ricardo Guerrero, Peter Richardson, Robert Sanchez, Kevin Healy, Britt Elmore, Reynaldo Vargas, David Sands, Robert Greiner, Matthew Kenney, John Cathey, Eileen Cooper, Michael Moody, Joseph Emanuel, Luis Oliva, Mario Molina, and Kenneth Esposto. 

  • Robert Karganilla, who claims police stole his Canon Powershot camera during a May 12, 2010 routine traffic stop. The Office of Citizen Complaints sustained his claim that police failed to book the camera into evidence. His camera has not been returned and he has not been compensated for his loss. 
Adachi is asking anyone with stories of SFPD misconduct to call his office at 575-8808. 

Best unscripted moment of the press conference: While a public defender rolled the tape of Tran's detainment, another one of the victims present at the press conference said: "What a punk! You call yourself a cop?"

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