Witnesses Say Santa Barbara Police Officer Used ‘Excessive Force’ During Traffic Stop
Now before we could come to any type of conclusion with the Peter Lance D.U.I. case. We have yet another Santa Barbara Policeman’s action coming under scrutiny. Read the public’s comments after each story, because for the first time people are not buying into the corruption. The public has also mentioned a need for recalls for Superior Court Judge Hill and Ochoa on the Internet for other actions. As I have stated for almost 4 years now it has been time for Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez to be fired.
I am just flabbergasted that after everything that is currently going on with the Santa Barbara Police Department. They would attempt to cover up the officer in questions action that clearly contradicts the eye witness reports that appeared in two separate Noozhawk internet stories. Before we cover the new issue let’s review some of my observations from the past week
I have included two media accounts of the incident and the contradicting Official press release. Before we get there I am going to review some of my recent observations that were posted on my blog @ www.santabarbara.criminalcourtcorruption.blogspot.com
I wrote this first observation of a ex parte attempt by the Santa Barbara District Attorneys last week. And by the way normally when she was a Court Commissioner and now Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne is the one who would have done the dirty work. Just ask anyone who has gone through a divorce here in Santa Barbara. There is nothing new about an illegal ex parte motion in Santa Barbara Superior Court. Yes that is right my divorce also contained an illegal ex parte motion to go along with my 7 false strike-able charges as I re- explained just last week.
The question that we must ask ourselves is; if the Statewide Lawyers Association had not filed a Constitutional Challenge would Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill have allowed that desperate attempt by the Police and The District Attorneys Office?
Last week I asked on my blog: How can we have a City Council race that does not address the current cloud hanging over the Santa Barbara Police Department?
How can we have a City Council race that does not address the current cloud hanging over the Santa Barbara Police Department? The way things stand now what type of message does that send to those who we are trying to work with? We have no problem labeling our youth as criminals yet stay silent on the many cases that are currently open involving both current and past members of our police force. What about the police chief who starts the gang injunction process, while he secretly was interviewing for another job in San Bernardino.
Than before Santa Barbara City Councilman Francisco could write: Police Union Claims Don’t Add Up
I wrote about false crime data being used in the current City Council Race and stated: We also need to recognize that politicking for money off false data is no longer allowed. !
Let’s set the facts straight about crime in Santa Barbara:
2010 Violent Crimes subtotal was down 31% and Aggravated Assault was down 37% .
We should be praising Law Enforcement instead of playing politics with our youth. We need to see honest numbers and praise the current efforts of both law Enforcement and the public who work with our youth on a daily basis. We also need to recognize that politicking for money off false data is no longer allowed. So when I see the Police Officers Association on T.V. in adds claiming that “Crime is on the raise and spiraling out of control”, as they share their endorsement for city Council I get very upset. That is not a true statement but your Pension costs are out of control Investigate that!
Police Union Claims Don’t Add Up
updated: Oct 22, 2011, 12:31 PM
By Dale Francisco
Election season is often filled with statements based on fantasy, not facts. This City Council election is no different. The union representing non-management police officers is claiming that the city is less safe today, that the number of officers on the street has been reduced, and that therefore the citizens of Santa Barbara should vote for the Union’s chosen slate of candidates.
Police Union print ads supporting their slate of candidates claim: “In the last ten years, public safety in Santa Barbara has steadily declined. During the same span, the number of police officers and firefighters has decreased substantially.”
And Police Union television ads claim in an ominous voice: “While Santa Barbara crime has gone up public safety has dropped. In that time the amount of firefighter and police has been drastically reduced. It’s time we had city councilmember’s who really want to keep our city safe…”
If the Police Union claims their slate of candidates will fix a problem with public safety, it’s worth asking who is responsible for the problem in the first place.
From 2001 to 2009 there were a total of six city elections resulting in eighteen candidates either being elected or re-elected to the city council and mayor’s position.
Of those eighteen successful candidates, thirteen (or 72%) were supported by the Police Union (for details, see chronology at end).
The Police Union claims that over the last decade public safety has suffered as a result of the number of budgeted officers being reduced, yet that reduction occurred over the period of time when 72% of the members of the city council were supported by the Police Union.
There must be something the Police Union leadership liked about the councilmember’s they supported-perhaps the councilmember’s’ stance on wages and benefits?
During the 2007 contract negotiations which resulted in a budget-busting 25% pay raise for members of the Police Union it was reported by Nick Welsh of the Santa Barbara Independent that the Police Union leaders would have been happy to reduce the number of budgeted officers in exchange for an increase in pay and benefits.
According to Welsh, there had been “a deal hammered out between [Police Union President Mike] McGrew and Councilmember Brian Barnwell to give individual officers bigger pay raises by reducing the total number of budgeted officers on the force from 140 to 137.”
Sadly, maintaining adequate numbers of police officers on Santa Barbara streets has never been the first priority for the Police Union leadership.
“We have a lot of great men and women in the Police Department doing their best every day to protect the people of this city,” said Santa Barbara City Councilmember Dale Francisco.
“Unfortunately our officers are not always well represented by the Police Union leadership. In this election it’s clear that the safety the leadership is most concerned with is the safety of wages and benefits.”
“If Police Union leaders have a problem with the policies of the last decade maybe they should take a closer look at who they support at election time,” said Francisco.
Dale Francisco has never had the support of the Police Union leadership. Yet on June 2nd 2011, he initiated a budget resolution supported by fellow incumbents Randy Rowse and Michael Self, who are also up for re-election, as well as by Councilmember Hotchkiss, that resulted in increasing the number of budgeted officers from 138 to 141. Those positions are now filled.
“The current incumbent councilmember’s were successful in increasing the number of budgeted police officers,” said Francisco. “We were very clear that unlike previous Councils we would never consider sacrificing the number of officers on Santa Barbara streets to union leaders’ demands for higher wages and benefits.”
Ten Years of Police Union Support for Candidates in City Council Elections
2001 – The Police Union helped elect all three city councilmember’s (Iya Falcone, Roger Horton, and Dan Secord) as well as Mayor Marty Blum.
2003 – Brian Barnwell and Helene Schneider were elected to City Council with the support of the Police Union (only Das Williams was elected without Police Union support).
2005 – Iya Falcone and Roger Horton were re-elected with the support of the Police Union (only Grant House was elected without Police Union support).
2007 – Das Williams and Helene Schneider were re-elected with the support of the Police Union (only Dale Francisco was elected without Police Union support).
2009 – Michael Self and Frank Hotchkiss were elected to City Council and Helene Schneider was elected Mayor with Police Union support (Grant House and Bendy White were elected to City Council without Police Union support).
Now before we could come to any type of conclusion with the Peter Lance D.U.I. case. We have yet another Santa Barbara Policeman’s action coming under scrutiny. Read the public’s comments after each story, because for the first time people are not buying into the corruption. The public has also mentioned a need for recalls for Superior Court Judge Hill and Ochoa. And I have stated for almost 4 years now it has been time for Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez to be fired.
I am just flabbergasted that after everything that is currently going on with the Santa Barbara Police Department. They would attempt to cover up the officer in questions action that clearly contradicts the eye witness reports that appeared in two separate Noozhawk internet stories.
Witnesses Say Santa Barbara Police Officer Used ‘Excessive Force’ During Traffic Stop
Bystanders watch alleged beating, Tasering in Gelson’s parking lot; SBPD vows investigation of incident.
Curiosity about a police traffic stop in the parking lot of Loreto Plaza on Friday night turned to horror for bystanders who watched as a Santa Barbara police officer allegedly beat and Tasered the motorist involved.
A police spokesman told Noozhawk on Saturday that the incident would be reviewed.
According to several witnesses with whom Noozhawk spoke Saturday, the incident occurred about 9:40 p.m. Friday in the parking lot in front of Gelson’s Market, 3305 State St.
Ellen and John Hunter had just finished dinner at Harry’s Plaza Café and were walking back to their nearby San Roque home when they saw a police car, its lights flashing, follow a truck into the lot from Las Positas Road.
Suspecting that the stop might be for a DUI, the couple paused about 30 feet away and watched as the driver slowly stepped out of his vehicle. Ellen Hunter said the officer called to the man to get back into the truck, but the driver, who she said was “possibly intoxicated,” didn’t appear to understand.
As the driver moved back toward his vehicle, she said the officer ordered him to get down on the ground.
“The driver began to get down slowly, as he was clearly not sure what was going on,” she said.
When the officer yelled again, the man was already on his hands and knees on the pavement.
“Out of nowhere, the officer began to punch the driver in the head several times with his fist and pushed him down flat to the ground,” said Hunter, who added that the officer continued to yell at the man to “stop resisting arrest.”
Another witness, Jeff Restivo, said the driver repeatedly yelled, “I’m not resisting! Why are you hitting me?” and kept asking the police officer what he wanted him to do.
Restivo said the officer punched the man “two or three times” in the kidney area and then stood over him and “punched him four or five times in the face — hard.” He said witnesses could hear the blows clearly from about 20 feet away.
Then, the witnesses told Noozhawk, the officer took out his Taser and zapped the man in the back.
“The guy tried to scoot away and the cop kept Tasering him,” said Restivo, who was heading into Harry’s with his wife when the incident occurred.
Restivo and the Hunters said about a dozen people had gathered near the scene and were pleading with the officer to stop striking and Tasering the man, who they said was not resisting the officer and was neither aggressive nor belligerent.
“What are you doing?! He’s not doing anything!” they said they yelled, but they added that the officer just kept repeating his command to “Stop resisting.”
By that point, they said, the man was crying out for help from bystanders, who had moved to within about 10 feet of the pair.
“Please help me, please help me,” he called out to them.
Ellen Hunter called 9-1-1 and, moments later, additional police cars arrived on the scene. A second officer helped handcuff the driver, whom the witnesses described as a white man who looked to be in his 30s.
Ellen Hunter said another police officer took witness statements but appeared to be challenging their accounts.
“He said the incident probably wasn’t a minute and a half like we said, and probably not 15 punches or as many Tases as we said,” said Hunter, who along with Restivo stood by their accounts that the man was Tasered at least 10 times.
They said officers did not respond to requests for information on what the man was alleged to have done. Ellen Hunter said she and her husband regretted not having the presence of mind to videotape the incident but she said they could not believe what they were observing.
Police Lt. James Pfleging, who was the incident commander Friday evening, spoke with Noozhawk on Saturday afternoon. Pfleging left the office around 9 p.m. Friday, before the incident occurred, and said he was unaware of what happened. He said he had not yet read the incident report or talked with the officers involved. The primary officer’s identity was not disclosed.
After reviewing the accounts from Noozhawk witnesses, Pfleging said he needed to talk with the command staff about the accusations to determine how to proceed.
“It’s something we take very seriously,” he said. “We would never want something like this to happen with one of our officers.”
On Saturday, the Hunters said they remained shaken by what they saw and “sick to their stomach about it.”
“This was excessive force right in front of our eyes in Santa Barbara,” Ellen Hunter said. “There was no way we were going to walk away and act like we didn’t see it.
“Officers like this make it hard for the majority of the other officers to do their jobs. This is wrong.”
“Everyone who witnessed it said it was just brutal,” he said. “I’ve been involved in martial arts and it was hard to watch. At worst, maybe the guy was not listening very well, but the officer’s response seemed to be way out of control.”
No other details of the incident were available from police Saturday. Pfleging encouraged anyone with more information to contact him at 805.897.2300.
— Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at email@example.com. Staff writer Lara Cooper contributed to this report. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
» OD on 10.22.11 @ 05:44 PM
This needs to be investigated and the officer punished if these allegations are true. I hope that Noozhawk will track this important story, as we must keep an eye on the police to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen. And kudos to the witnesses for having the courage to step up to the plate and report this.
» John_Adams on 10.22.11 @ 05:53 PM
The POA may want to reconsider their public outreach methods to convince the public to keep paying that 3.0% at 50 years of age.
» PGL on 10.22.11 @ 05:59 PM
What’s this? Noozhawk actually went out and talked to witnesses instead of letting the suspect write his own story? How Old School is that?
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» lou segal on 10.23.11 @ 01:53 AM
Okay, let’s face the facts – the SBPD is out of control. We have Beutel allegedly forging documents and falsely arresting people, which the police and the city are doing everything possible to cover up and now this. I wish this incident had been videotaped. The witnesses seem credible to me. This is a rogue out-of-control police dept that is essentially run by a militant union that answers to no one. We need a new chief, because the inmates are running the asylum and our city leaders don’t seem to give a damn.
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» John E. on 10.23.11 @ 03:01 AM
People wonder why there is such huge mistrust of law enforcement. This is another glowing example. This officer needs to be fired and brought up on federal charges since no state court will be harsh with an officer. One of us public would get around 15 years bet he barely does 5.
The laws are so broad on what is considered ok to do during an arrest that it is ludicrous. Police wonder why they have a hard time getting funding increases from taxes. I will never vote for it.
» Chuck Washburn on 10.23.11 @ 06:57 AM
On my first visit to Santa Barbara a couple of years ago, I observed an SBPD Officer screaming, red-faced, spittle flying, at a pedestrian tourist crossing mid-block – with no other traffic present. This was not an emergency situation. It was a cop abusing a citizen who immediately complied with his request.
That started to form my opinion of the SBPD and it’s been going downhill ever since.
The attitude of the people in any organization is generally determined by the people at the top. As long as Chief Sanchez is in his position, I don’t hold out much hope for change because behavior of this type can only occur if he allows it to. And, it seems that he does.
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» JustBobF on 10.23.11 @ 07:16 AM
Thanks to the Hunters for coming forward with this. Sounds like so many police are terrible these days. Hope the cop (don’t want to honor him by calling him an officer) goes to jail for his crime: assault and battery.
» Mr.Right on 10.23.11 @ 07:17 AM
Nothing will come of this, they are a boys club that does what ever they want. Investigations no longer exist there prim directive is not to serve and protect it is to create revenue by citing as many people as possible. F**k the police..
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» Overtaxed Taxpayer on 10.23.11 @ 07:31 AM
How about arresting some of those illegal aliens with stolen American I.D’s, and doing some good in our sanctuary city.
Those anchor babies are destroying our schools and many of them are gang members. Go by any school its full of Mexicans living off welfare food stamps section 8 and free health care, what a mess..
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» OD on 10.23.11 @ 07:34 AM
Other communities have a police commission made up of citizens, whose job is to keep these abuses under control. Do we not have anything like that in Santa Barbara? If not, why not? And why are City leaders for the most part silent on these incidents? When we need to be protected from those who are paid to protect us, something is terribly wrong. Who will stand up and do something about it?
» RichardSaunders on 10.23.11 @ 07:40 AM
The question is, what exactly is the SB Police Dept. policy on the use of tasers? Many departments have adopted a policy that police can use tasers only if they or someone else is in imminent danger. Smart departments do NOT allow tasers to be used only to subdue someone, and certainly not to punish someone.
There have been numerous incidents of people dying when a taser is used on them, especially people with medical conditions, children and pregnant women.
The city council should demand to know what our police deptarment’s policy is on the use of tasers.
» GoRamsGo on 10.23.11 @ 08:26 AM
Maybe it’s just me, but most “normal” people (including myself when I’ve been stopped) follow instructions from police. I ask myself, what kind of person, when a cop is grabbing their arm, decides to go against the program? The answer is, people who have a reason to resist, because they have drugs or have warrants or something… or are even just DUI and freaking out. I mean, go to YouTube and search for things like “Routine Traffic Stop Results In A Shootout” … these are the things cops have to worry about when someone gets squirrelly (sp?) on them.
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» John Locke on 10.23.11 @ 09:00 AM
Another horrifying example of those who are supposed to serve and protect instead beating and tasing. Thugs with guns and badges – not all, certainly, but enough of these incidents to indicate a need for change at the top as well as a civilian oversight committee – RIGHT NOW.
» Bloggulator on 10.23.11 @ 09:15 AM
We’re all suspects now. That’s the way our post 9/11, maximum security, paranoid, big brother, Orwellian society is going.
» jolly joy on 10.23.11 @ 10:05 AM
This incident was witnessed by two different sets of people who had no common connection. Besides the out of control behavior of the first officer, I find the behavior of the officers that who arrived and tried to influence the witnesses’ statements just as alarming. The District Attorney’s Office should take a look at what is going on and certainly the Grand Jury should make the SB Police Department a major focus.
» XFYRCHF on 10.23.11 @ 12:45 PM
Sure LOOKS like the SBPD over reacted. However, seeing it from 30 feet away—-witnesses may have missed something. Like a gun or a knife or something else important.
Wait for the report and investigation. Anyone who saw the incident should come forward so there is a fair hearing of the facts.
If the PD did what it LOOKED like they did they should be hung up by tender body parts.
» just sayin… on 10.23.11 @ 01:40 PM
Yeah, Restivo seems credible…
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» Rachel on 10.23.11 @ 01:47 PM
Everyone reading this article should send it to 20 friends. The only way to keep things like this from being ‘swept under the rug’ is to get nationwide attention. I’ve tweeted this to my 300+ followers and sent the article to the LA Times.
Also, examine the current Police Union recommendations for SB City Council and seriously consider if you really want the police telling you who to vote for.
» LookingWest on 10.23.11 @ 01:53 PM
Thank you to those witnesses – it takes courage to stand up to the police. They should monitor carefully their calls and any unusual activity around their houses. Indeed, something is very wrong in the SBPD. It’s perhaps (and hopefully) not as serious as in NY and this recent Ira Glass report: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/414/right-to-remain-silent?act=2
—- but it is serious. What say those 3 city council candidates who are taking money from the POA? What says the City Council as a whole? Apparently, Beutel-Lance was not an isolated incident.
» lou segal on 10.23.11 @ 02:22 PM
There were a dozen people at the scene. You think they’re all lying. Some people may want to defend the police no matter what, but the rest of us are not non-thinking, mindless idiots who believe whatever we are told.
» Voice of Reason on 10.23.11 @ 02:48 PM
This is sad. And even sadder that people like GoRamsGo will jump to defend the cop in this situation. Seriously GRG, how many times during a routine traffic stop does it go badly for the police? I’d wager they’d have a higher likelihood of getting struck by lightning.
Let’s hope the City Council does the right thing this time and requests and independent investigation of this incident by an outside organization like the state DOJ.
I also would like to know the SBPD (and other law enforcement agencies’) policies on tazer use. On the TV show ‘On Patrol’ I’ve seen SBPD taze people who are running away from them. Is this a legitimate use of the tazer? For many law enforcement agencies it is not.
» EastBeach on 10.23.11 @ 03:14 PM
Wow. If the allegations are established to be true, then the first officer was way out of line. I must say, I know three SBPD officers and they are fine decent folks. But in any population, there are statistically going to be a few bad eggs, especially if one factors in difficulties of the job that may send someone over the edge. Still, this is the kind of report I would expect to hear in LA County.
» LookingWest on 10.23.11 @ 03:38 PM
This story was linked on edhat and someone wrote that he could not go back to work for two months; asked why, s/he responded: “WHATSRIGHT
2011-10-23 04:37 PM
he has 4 broken ribs, a broken nose, his face is messed up with two black eyes , scrapes and bruises and a broken wrist. he cant work for two months because the emergency doctor the second visit not ocuppied with police escort explained that two months recovery time would be recommended to avoid long time effects of pain and suffering from the beating. not to mention that his job is client face to face service and i am sure they will be affended that halloween started so early.”
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» lou segal on 10.23.11 @ 05:26 PM
I hope Noozhawk will interview the victim of this alleged unprovoked beating as well as some of the other 11 bystanders to get their side of the story. Noozhawk should ask every candidate for city council what they intend to do about this. At this point, if the candidate suggests the police should conduct their own investigation, I will immediately vote for another person. That response is a deal breaker for me. Anything less than a truly independent commission looking into this will have no credibility with me.
» LookingWest on 10.23.11 @ 06:07 PM
I agree with Lou Segal. I wonder if during all these council candidate “debates” whether the question was asked about having a Civilian Police Review Board; anyone know? I went to several of them and didn’t hear such a question. It should be asked of each of the candidates. Perhaps the Grand Jury can look into this, as well as the possibility of having such a standing review board, although GJ reports usually go nowhere. (That’s said as having been a member of the Grand Jury, and it depends on who’s on the Jury, but, still, the GJ has a lot of power for investigations.)
Thanks to Noozhawk for breaking this story!
» Karma on 10.24.11 @ 07:45 AM
So, let me get this straight, the driver is pulled over for DUI, flees his vehicle, and resists arrest. What is the officer supposed to do, give him a hug? Maybe the officer should should just let him leave and drive around drunk until he crashes into our loved ones.
When we are legally detained by the police, we must obey their orders or force is authorized by law.
Just because this accusation has been made does not mean it is true or the action un-justified. Please reserve your judgement until an investigation has been made. Cops are innocent until proven guilty too.
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» sbnooz on 10.24.11 @ 08:15 AM
Another recent example of police brutality in Santa Barbara. Would like to hear comment from the local Police Chief explaining the increased levels and what they plan to do about the problem and the officer above.
It is scary that the police can do this and a group of bystanders will not intervene. That is when you know the police have taken things too far. A group of individuals should feel safe intervening in a situation such as this. Although I haven’t been stopped by an officer, I’d hate to end up like this guy at the other end of an officer’s personal issues and have a group of my peers watching, albeit in disgust.
» ninameyer on 10.24.11 @ 09:30 AM
This kind of police brutality was viscous,barbaric,and completely unwarranted. The Hunter’s are to be commended for revealing what they witnessed in Gelson’s parking lot. This man was horribly beaten for no reason whatsoever. This kind of brutality is nothing new, but far worse now than ever before. 35 years ago one afternoon my teenage brother at the time was walking down a street in our San Roque neighborhood. A policeman stopped him, cuffed him and through him against the hood of his car. Other than having long hair – my brother had done nothing whatsoever to deserve this treatment; no probable cause.
The City of Santa Barbara needs to establish an oversight committee demanding a revamp of officer protocol and individual assessment of anger management stability.
Hopefully, something good in terms of change will come out of this outrageous incident…which was not only an attack on the man who was beaten by this sick officer – but an attack on each of us and our civil rights as American citizens.
» GoRamsGo on 10.24.11 @ 09:58 AM
@Karma: Right?!? Like, if a cop pulls someone over, and the person refuses to be stopped, are the cops supposed to just let them saunter off? Everyone today thinks they’re a lawyer, so they should know: The way to challene cops is in court, not when they are grabbing you telling you to stop. Do you guys really think that a cop just thought to himself, “Hey it’s a quiet Saturday… I think I’ll pull someone over in a big shopping center and attack him for no reason”…?! Reserve judgment until it’s investigated.
» sbdude on 10.24.11 @ 10:24 AM
Seriously Karma and GoRamsGo? If all you can muster is conjecture about the victim having a gun, a knife, and resisting arrest in the face of multiple, independent, eyewitness accounts, you surely have your collective heads up your behinds.
No amount of drunkeness or stupidity on the part of the vitcim deserves this kind of abuse. And the attempts by the additional responding “officers” to make the witnesses change their story is deplorable. If an attorney were to coerce a witness account outside the courtroom, they’d be thrown away for obstruction.
Even a DUI suspect is innocent until proven guilty. And this guy did not deserve this kind of treatment, no matter what he may or may not have tried to pull. the “officer” should have called for backup immediately if he even though he needed to use his taser. Time to put the SBPD on the federal watch list.
» lou segal on 10.24.11 @ 10:36 AM
Are the posters who are trying to defend the police reacting to anything but their own preconceived prejudices. If they read the article, they would know the victim did not resist this crazy, maniacal cop. Have you ever heard of a proportional response to a particular action. If someone is confused and fails to obey completely, it doesn’t give license to the cop to beat the guy to a bloody pulp. So do us a favor and stop making up nonsense to defend the indefensible. Are you guys related to this cop or getting paid by the SBPD to spew this garbage. Or are you just knuckleheads who like to troll on the internet and embarrass yourselves with ignorant statements.
» goodprevails on 10.24.11 @ 10:48 AM
SBNOOZ – are you suggesting that the crowd interfere with a police officer in the course of an arrest? This is a crime. The law prevents anyone, the suspect, his friends or uninformed bystanders from doing this. It’s also a good way to get yourself, and possibly the officer, hurt or killed. What you or any of the other “knee jerk reactionists” who want to string this officer up don’t know is what the officer knew or saw that may have led him to use force. If I was pulled over, I would sit in my car calmly and wait for the officer to approach me, not get out and fail to follow instructions. This man may have been suspected of a serious crime, had a weapon, been driving a stolen car….we just don’t know. So let’s all shut-up for a minute and let the story come out and then you can make an intelligent comment or share your opinions.
» sbnooz on 10.24.11 @ 11:44 AM
Good prevails – I was only basing my answer on the facts listed above, as well as what was not listed, not on the speculation present in your analysis. If a weapon was present or the person was resisting, it would have been reported. If not, poor PR job by the cops.
Yes, I am suggesting that the public intervene in a situation like this. There are a few of us who would go to jail to help a victim or this type of situation. I would agree with you that it can be dangerous and generally not a good precedent, but until we have a trustworthy police department, I trust my surrounding neighbors, not some large punk with a badge trying to make a name for himself. Currently as many have mentioned, our system doesn’t have checks and balances. Yes I do fully understand the ramifications of the public interfering w/ a Police Officer in any way and how it affects the safety of both sides.
Plus, this man was white, how scary is that.
It’s a tough job, but a reason these individuals are highly compensated, relative to job requirements.
» Mr.Right on 10.24.11 @ 06:59 PM
Wait for the official investigation!! LOL… Im sure it will be a legitimate investigation done by the officers peers that will inevitably acquit him of any wrong doing, no matter how many un-reputable, dirt ball, taxpaying, citizens of San Roque say otherwise. The SBPD are anything but trustworthy. If you would like to start citing similar incidents I am more then happy to contribute some horrific examples that will show a pattern of miss-use of power. On the topic of innocent until proven guilty… What a joke! Obviously you have never had any complications with the law or you would know that nothing could be further from the truth.
Police Tell a Different Story of Fateful Traffic Stop That Spurred ‘Excessive Force’ Accusations
Officer, SBPD say DUI suspect disobeyed commands and resisted arrest, which led to ‘physical altercation’ and Tasering
first reported Saturday, witnesses said they watched in disbelief as Officer Aaron Tudor punched and Tasered Tony Vincent Denunzio after pulling him over on suspicion of driving under the influence Friday night. The witnesses assert that Denunzio was not resisting the officer and was neither aggressive nor belligerent as he lay on the ground in the parking lot in front of Gelson’s Market
, 3305 State St.
One of the witnesses called it a case of “excessive force.”
Denunzio, 50, of Santa Barbara, was arrested on suspicion of DUI, violation of DUI probation, resisting an officer and driving with a suspended license, which was the result of a DUI conviction, police said.
Police Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte, a department spokesman, said Denunzio refused to provide a blood sample to determine his blood-alcohol concentration so officers and a nurse at the Santa Barbara County Jail took an involuntary blood sample before he was transported to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital. At the hospital, Denunzio was treated for a broken nose and pain in his ribs, then released from custody.
Police Chief Cam Sanchez did not respond to Noozhawk’s multiple calls for comment Sunday and Monday. Meanwhile, Santa Barbara Police Officers Association president Eric Beecher said he could not comment on the incident.
By all accounts, Denunzio drove his 2007 Chevy Avalanche into the Loreto Plaza parking lot from Las Positas Road around 9:40 p.m. Friday, followed closely by Tudor’s police car, whose lights were flashing. A handful of bystanders watched as the truck came to a stop in a parking space about 70 yards from the street, with the police car pulling up directly behind it in another parking space.
Witnesses say Denunzio got out of his vehicle and that Tudor called to the man to get back into the truck. The bystanders say Denunzio appeared not to understand the command, and one witness, Ellen Hunter of Santa Barbara, speculated that he was “possibly intoxicated.”
The witnesses say the officer then ordered Denunzio to get down on the ground. As he dropped to his hands and knees, the witnesses told Noozhawk, the officer began punching him with his fist in the back and the face. They said they saw as many as 15 blows and could hear them clearly from about 20 feet away.
Hunter said Tudor’s flurry of punches came “out of nowhere.” She and her husband, John, said Tudor pushed Denunzio flat to the ground, all while yelling at him to “stop resisting arrest.”
The Hunters and another witness, Jeff Restivo, said Denunzio was submissive and, in fact, was yelling back to Tudor, “I’m not resisting! Why are you hitting me?” They say he repeatedly asked the officer what he wanted him to do.
At that point, according to the witnesses, Tudor took out his Taser and began zapping Denunzio in the back. As he cried out for help and attempted to wiggle away, the witnesses began shouting at the officer to stop striking and Tasering him. Hunter used her cell phone to call 9-1-1 and was told that police backup was on its way.
According to the witnesses, Tudor did not acknowledge their protests and did not stop Tasering Denunzio until additional police officers arrived moments later.
“This was excessive force right in front of our eyes in Santa Barbara,” Hunter said. “… Officers like this make it hard for the majority of the other officers to do their jobs. This is wrong.”
The Police Department account tells a different story, and provides details of what transpired before the traffic stop.
According to Duarte, Tudor was on uniformed patrol when he observed the black Avalanche leave the parking lot of Arroyo Burro Beach County Park, 2981 Cliff Drive. While driving north on Las Positas, Tudor said he saw the truck make three lane changes between traffic without signaling, which is a vehicle-code violation. Tudor ran a Department of Motor Vehicles check of the truck and learned that Denunzio, its owner, had a suspended license and is on probation for driving under the influence.
Duarte said Tudor turned on his squad car’s emergency lights as the truck entered the Loreto Plaza parking lot, three miles away from the beach park and, according to Google Maps, a seven-minute drive.
“The truck did not yield right away,” Duarte said. “Instead, it continued slowly in the parking lot and eventually parked in one of the parking spaces.”
Then, according to Tudor’s incident report, Denunzio “immediately exited the vehicle and refused to follow verbal commands. A physical altercation ensued.”
According to Duarte, Denunzio ignored Tudor’s command to get back in his truck and began to walk away.
“I could smell the odor of alcohol on Denunzio,” Tudor added.
Tudor’s report states that Denunzio “physically resisted by tensing his body and refusing to place his hands behind his back,” in violation of Penal Code 148 (a): resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer.
The incident escalated from taking hold of Denunzio’s arm to Tasering him several times and kneeing him in the face when he wouldn’t put his arm behind his back, the SBPD statement said.
Duarte said Tudor tried unsuccessfully to get Denunzio to drop to the ground by placing his arm behind his back. At that point, Duarte said, Tudor called for backup and tripped Denunzio so he fell to his hands and knees.
“The officer told Denunzio several times to stop resisting, but Denunzio continued to resist,” Duarte said in the SBPD statement. “The officer then delivered several palm strikes to the back of Denunzio’s head … the palm strikes were ineffective, and Denunzio continued to struggle and physically resist the officer. The officer then delivered a knee strike to the area of Denunzio’s ribs. The officer followed up with several hand strikes to Denunzio’s rib area.
“During the struggle, the officer deployed his Taser several times in an attempt to get Denunzio to place his hands behind his back … additional officers arrived to assist and noticed that the Taser was ineffective. They observed that Denunzio was resisting by not placing his hands behind his back and tucking them underneath by his waist. The officer believed that Denunzio could possibly be retrieving a weapon. Even with additional officers, Denunzio continued to resist for more than a minute before being subdued by the officers.
“During the struggle, an officer delivered a knee strike to Denunzio’s face, which allowed the officers to handcuff him.”
After his arrest, Duarte said Denunzio refused to provide a blood sample, a violation of his DUI probation. He said Denunzio’s probation terms also prohibit him from committing any criminal offense or driving a vehicle with alcohol in his blood. Denunzio also has been convicted previously of reckless driving, he said.
In his incident report, Tudor circled “misdemeanor” in the Probable Cause entry and listed bail at $10,000. According to a local attorney, Denunzio, who works as a general contractor, was released on his own recognizance early Saturday.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley told Noozhawk she spoke with Santa Barbara police officers and her own staff about the incident Sunday and again on Monday.
“It’s my understanding that once SBPD completes its investigation, all reports related to this incident will be sent to my office,” she said, adding that she hasn’t been told when this will happen.
“When this information is received by my office, we will carefully investigate all allegations,” she told Noozhawk. “All of us in law enforcement take allegations of excessive force, as well as allegations of obstructing or resisting a police officer, very seriously; hence, we will treat this matter with the integrity and thoroughness it deserves.”
Dudley also said she would not comment on the state of the evidence during the investigation, but would address the media as soon as any filing decisions have been reached.
“I know that time is of the essence because the community is aware, and understandably concerned, about what has been reported by the media, but due process and justice can not be rushed,” she said.
Mayor Helene Schneider told Noozhawk that she met with Sanchez and City Administrator Jim Armstrong over the weekend, but did not have any new information to add to the police statement issued Monday.
“These are serious accusations,” she said.
Schneider did say she was pleased that the patrol car Tudor was driving had a dashboard camera that had been installed as part of a pilot program.
“To me, that’s going to be an important piece of evidence,” she said. “I feel like that was an important tool.”
Earlier this month, the county grand jury called on local law-enforcement agencies to place cameras in their patrol cars. The Santa Barbara City Council put off outfitting its police fleet with cameras until the next budget cycle, but one manufacturer offered a trial use of its cameras in a handful of cars.
Police officials encouraged anyone with more information about the Loreto Plaza incident to contact investigators at 805.897.2300.
— Noozhawk staff writers Giana Magnoli and Lara Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
» PGL on 10.25.11 @ 12:54 AM
What took SBPD so long to issue that report? Undercover Police Chief Cam Sanchez apparently surfaced over the weekend to talk to Mayor Schneider, the DA met with police officers Sunday, but no one but a harried watch commander could be bothered to address these very serious allegations before now?
Thanks to Noozhawk for forcing SBPD’s hand. Without you, the entire incident would have been dropped in the circular file.
And with all that Sanchez STILL can’t return a call?! Great work, Cam! You put the A-OL in AWOL.
» craigallen on 10.25.11 @ 04:45 AM
This situation is going to escalate quickly and not in a favorable way for the police department. They would be well-advised to stop their defensive posture and admit what Tudor did was illegal and fire him. All witnesses tell the same story of brutality and excessive force and this is only going to get worse for the police if they continue down this path. Every minute that passes they lose credibility that will be difficult if not impossible to regain with the public. Trying to spin this by stating that Denunzio has a record is pointless and completely beside the point, which is that Tudor beat Denunzio for no reason. I think we all need to consider what type of police force we need and deserve and make appropriate changes.
» jonkwilliams on 10.25.11 @ 06:07 AM
And the Pulitzer Prize for fiction goes to…
» Mick on 10.25.11 @ 06:21 AM
Unfortunately these complaints are all too common. I withhold judgement until the video is reviewed. I will assume the video will be made public and then you can decide fault. The one common denominator in all of these storys is intoxication. Where is the judgemwnt concerning a drunk driver without a license putting everyone on the street in danger? And before you reply that that doesn’t deserve a beating, you got to see the video.
» GiGi on 10.25.11 @ 06:46 AM
Glad more of this story is coming out. What we see from a distance is not always what is experienced close up. Let us not condemn anyone at this point but be grateful that an investigation is ongoing. All I know is it would be hard to be a law enforcer who must continually deal with law breakers, especially DUI violators. Let us all take a breath, step back, and see what else is revealed.
» 14noscams on 10.25.11 @ 06:49 AM
Total fiction, like any SBPD report. The only deviation from SBPD standard prodedure was the presence of witnesses.
I’m sure Dudley will investigate types of harassment and malicious litigation she can file against Denunzio, as she’s done for witnesses in Peter Lance’s trial – she’s disqualified herself from investigating this incident by her history of retalialtion.
This guy made lane changes without signaling, like all cops. When did Tudor smell alcohol – when they were both in their vehicles, or when Denunzio was on the ground and Tudor was punching him in the kidneys.
» TheTruthLiesInTheContradictions on 10.25.11 @ 06:53 AM
What would compell a local citizen to dial 911 to report a traffic stop?
I wonder if the fists of the arresting officer were examined?
The officers refused to provide a count for the number of tasers that were discharged.
» John Locke on 10.25.11 @ 08:12 AM
Let’s see the video. The original, not an SBPD interpretation of it. Palm strikes and punches are very different. Multiple Taser strikes for not getting on the ground quickly enough comprise brutality.
Gigi, you should hope you’re never stopped by certain SBPD officers.
» haskelslocal on 10.25.11 @ 08:14 AM
Too bad nobody had their cell phone to video this. Hold judgement as idiotic as this guy is to EVER be on the road, there was no way Tudor knew who he was until after the arrest. Tudor’s DMV check does not mean that is the person driving the car. (Ever drive your friends car? Your wife/husbands car?) Also, please tell me where to find the handbook on “how to get arrested”. Cops go to training classes teaching how to exactly arrest someone. Suspects do not go to training class on how to get arrested. I for one have never been arrested and have no clue what I’m supposed to do, exactly. Do one thing wrong and you got a guy screaming at you through a McDonald’s quality drive-thru speaker in garbled dialect! Tudor admits he “…tried unsuccessfully to get Denunzio to drop to the ground by placing his arm behind his back.” Tell me, How exactly is someone supposed to act when they are gettting shoved into the ground face first while someone is pulling their hands and arms behind their back! Instinct ALWAYS takes over and EVERYONE will STICK THEIR HANDS OUT to protect their face. It’s not resisting it’s sinstinct and self preservation.
The worst part this it only takes one of these events to have a lawsuit tap Millions in reserves that could have hired more cops or increased salaries to hire better cops.
» SB Onlooker on 10.25.11 @ 09:23 AM
This is just another example of a police department out of control. Let’s not forget that Police Chief Cam Sanchez has more interested in finding a job that pays more then earning his current salary by supervising officers current under his command. Our police department is making news almost monthly now with something one their finest has been caught doing wrong. Only later to be told that nothing really happened. It really doesn’t matter what multiple people see or report. If history repeats itself, I’m sure after the in car video is edited the officer will be cleared of any wrong doing. I’m also sure the edited version will come with the full support of our fearless District Attorney Joyce Dudley because she would not want to contaminate a potential jury pool with the truth. Plus don’t forget it is her job to protect the city against any possible law suits that may arise from this altercation. I’m fairly sure no one will appose her decision because we all know how well Joyce Dudley handles criticism, she simple fire anyone that apposes her or finds some other way to make your life miserable. This only leaves two questions in my mind.
1. Why do you think we, continually see declining respect for law enforcement and our legal system.
2. Why are we spending all this money (we don’t have) to put cameras in patrol cars it officials are not will so show the video in a timely period when there is a questionable altercation.
» TheTruthLiesInTheContradictions on 10.25.11 @ 09:25 AM
this article reads, “A handful of bystanders watched as the truck came to a stop in a parking space about 70 yards from the street, with the police car pulling up directly behind it in another parking space.”
Parking in another space places the patrol car next to the car. Most patrol cars have the camera mounted to face directly ahead. Don’t be surprised if the video did not capture the incident, and I would suspect its not protocol to park in a manner that doesn’t capture the incident
» JustBobF on 10.25.11 @ 09:35 AM
Would love to see what that dashboard camera captured, if anything. I don’t trust that cops statement in the least. If he can’t get a drunk guy to … well, he seems to have no people skills.
» Really? on 10.25.11 @ 09:40 AM
How about a different view of this incident.
This male has a history of anti social and/or criminal behavior. A history that is repeated with family members, that includes cheating business clients and hard drug use.
You are a lone officer, pulling over a person most likely known to you, and that failed the computer background check. He is one block from the house of a very similar family with almost identical criminal background, where he has visited in the past. Most importantly here, the officer knew he had an IN CAR VIDEO CAMERA as part of a shakedown to see how well it would work. Anyone of you out there with a new toy going to forget you are on candid camera?
Yes I am aware of this person and his background. No I am not trying to excuse any behavior not in line with rational police enforcement. No I am not a police officer, but yes I have had to deal with this type of person in security situations.
Do I have an appreciation for Cam Sanchez? No, and I wish he would go back to where ever he came from, take his “yes” men lackies with him, and quit law enforcement completely.
But folks this is a time to zip it until there is a complete review of the tape. If the officer is out of line sign me up to be first hammer him.
» OldPuebloTransplant on 10.25.11 @ 10:39 AM
15+ independent witnesses are stating that the suspect in no way whatsoever resisted arrest, that the officer punched (not palm strikes) and tazered the suspect inappropriately. One single police department (comrades) state otherwise and witnesses say the investigating officers repeatedly tried to redirect their witness statements. Until I see video evidence that suggests otherwise I’ll trust the witnesses.
@Really? – That’s all the perspective I need for now.
» TheTruthLiesInTheContradictions on 10.25.11 @ 11:41 AM
I suppose the arguemnet can be made that the public is not trained to make a moral judgement call.
» suspicious on 10.25.11 @ 12:29 PM
Come on. What’s all the speculation about. Its on video. That’s a no brainer. This is now two days on a story that appears written so quickly and without any real research that it must be for not better reason than to get ANYTHING out there before your competitors. Really poor journalism standards.
Aren’t all you people the same people who scream and yell about the media. You complain about the media than follow the story right off the cliff with the other lemmings. Sheep!
…on a side note. “Didn’t understand?” and as Haskel puts in “I don’t know what to do”. Really..really. You don’t know what to do. Are you really that much of a vegetable that you don’t know. I’ll bet if you were arrested for DUI and reckless driving you would know what to do. “Help me, save me from the bad man! I’ve had too many beers and I’m too confused to do what the officer tells me after I managed to not kill anyone driving for the past 5 miles.
I’d say the City ought to pony up for cameras in all the cars because nothing will satisfy people who react so miserably because the cub reporter told them to.
» LegendaryYeti on 10.25.11 @ 12:31 PM
Evidently the police and many of the bystanders and commenters here have different definitions of what constitutes “resisting arrest.” I would submit that the only definition that matters at the time is the officers’.
Had Mr Denunzio remained in his truck and not tried to walk away from the stop, and done exactly what the officer told him to do, then much of the objectionable force used against him would not have occurred.
» lou segal on 10.25.11 @ 12:48 PM
OldPuebloTransplant, has hit the nail on its head. Numerous witnesses saying one thing, and one cop who may be in a heckuva lot of trouble saying another is a no-brainer for me.
» jolly joy on 10.25.11 @ 02:10 PM
Why did the officer follow him for such a distance? Slow computer check on car license? Wasn’t till almost at Loreto Plaza the third lane change was made without a signal?
The officer could possibly find the three lane changes without a signal on upper State in less distance.
» suspicious on 10.25.11 @ 02:16 PM
15 witnesses? Who are these witnesses? What did they see? Did the reporter actually talk with 15 people. Anytime one person says there were 15 people it actually means to a respectable reporter, there was only one person who said 15.
This is the problem with the emotional reporting tactic. Anytime you say things like “everybody knows” or “everybody thought” or rely on your witness to say it, you are really saying you have no idea. Otherwise you would just say it.
You can say there were a Gazzilion witnesses but that doesn’t mean anything. Relying on adverbs and adjectives as your primary writing style means that you have few facts to actually report on.
But its not fact they are interested in, in this story. Its getting people so emotional that you keep reading and keep looking at the ads. That is the antithesis of public interest, whether its in the News Press or in the Noozhawk.
PS: EVERYBODY thinks I’m a great guy!!!! Cause I said so.
» lou segal on 10.25.11 @ 02:55 PM
Suspicious, you’re name doesn’t do you justice. You might as well have a lobotomy, considering that that part of your brain, which is used to question and weigh the credibility of the pablum the police are feeding you, is obviously not functioning well. You really think a cop, who has been accused of police brutality, is going to admit he lost control and pummeled the hell out of a person because of a momentary lapse of judgement. Get real!
» pt1384 on 10.25.11 @ 03:21 PM
Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez to review video footage of Loreto Plaza arrest after DUI stop reported, finally today on Tuesday. Supposedly the video is like maybe 3 minutes long. He is not returning any calls to anyone. I don’t know who there PR person is but boy are they doing a horrible job. This could have been nipped in the bud from day one. With all this speculation from both sides I believe that the Police Department will have a tough time recovering. You have Armstrong, Schneider and Sanchez running the show. I Pay all of your salaries. I am your employer. I am entitled to see the tape and I want answers now! Not tomorrow or next week ! If this cop is innocent. So be it!
» Rambler on 10.25.11 @ 03:24 PM
Three witnesses were quoted. The cop had himself a little rage vent on this admittedly problematic driver. Maybe not even rage, maybe something a little scarier. The guy should not be a cop. Period.
» A123 on 10.25.11 @ 04:38 PM
Sounds like reasonable force to me. Read Graham vs Connor people the Surpreme Court decision on force used by officers. Ofc Tudor is not a robot that knows everything. He’s a man and he must make a decision in a tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situation. We need to start asking why Mr Denunzio behaved the way did. 99% of citizens would not have acted that way. “End of Comments
City of Santa Barbara
Contact: Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte
Phone: (805) 897-2332
Fax: (805) 897-3733
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Driver arrested after traffic stop
Driver charged with DUI, Resisting Arrest, and Unlicensed Driver
SANTA BARBARA, CA – 10/25/2011 – On 10/21/2011, at proximately 9:40 p.m., a Santa Barbara Police Officer was standing outside of his patrol car in the area of Hendry’s Beach. The officer noticed a black Chevrolet pickup truck leaving the parking lot. While on Las Positas Road, the officer observed the black truck make three separate lane changes without turning on its turn signal in violation of the Vehicle Code. The officer initiated a traffic stop by turning on his vehicle’s emergency lights. At this point, the black truck was entering Loreto Plaza. The truck did not yield right away. Instead, it continued slowly in the parking lot and eventually parked into one of the parking spaces.
The driver, later identified as Santa Barbara resident Tony Vincent Denunzio, 50 years of age, exited his truck. The officer ordered Denunzio to get back into his vehicle. Denunzio ignored the command and began to walk away, turning his back on the officer. The officer took hold of Denunzio’s arm in order to prevent him from walking away. Denunzio attempted to pull free from the officer’s hold. The officer told Denunzio to get on the ground in order to handcuff him and place him under arrest. The officer attempted to get Denunzio’s arm behind his back but was not able to do so because of Denunzio’s level of resistance. The officer requested emergency back-up. The officer then tripped Denunzio causing Denunzio to fall on his hands and knees. The officer told Denunzio several times to stop resisting, but Denunzio continued to resist. The officer then delivered several palm strikes to the back of Denunzio’s head. The officer hoped this would distract Denunzio enough so he could place Denunzio’s arm behind his back. The palm strikes were ineffective, and Denunzio continued to struggle and physically resist the officer. The officer then delivered a knee strike to the area of Denunzio’s ribs. The officer followed up with several hand strikes to Denunzio’s rib area. During the struggle, the officer deployed his Taser several times in an attempt to get Denunzio to place his hands behind his back. Denunzio continued to resist, and the Taser had almost no effect on him. Additional officers arrived to assist and noticed that the Taser was ineffective. They observed that Denunzio was resisting by not placing his hands behind his back and tucking them underneath by his waist. The officer believed that Denunzio could possibly be retrieving a weapon. Even with additional officers, Denunzio continued to resist for over a minute before being subdued by the officers. During the struggle, an officer delivered a knee strike to Denunzio’s face, which allowed the officers to handcuff him. The officer who initiated the traffic stop on Denunzio could smell an odor of an intoxicant on Denunzio’s person during the incident. Denunzio was then taken into custody for DUI, Resisting Arrest, and Unlicensed Driver. Denunzio refused to provide a chemical sample to obtain his blood alcohol level. Officers, assisted by a nurse, had to obtain and involuntary blood sample at the Santa Barbara County Jail. Denunzio was transported to Goleta Hospital where he was treated and released for his injuries. His injuries consisted of a broken nose and complaint of pain to his ribs.
Denunzio is currently on probation for DUI with probation terms stating that he shall not commit any criminal offense, refuse a BAC test, or drive a vehicle with alcohol in his blood. He has also been convicted in the past of Reckless Driving. Denunzio was driving without a validlicense, which was suspended as a result of his previous DUI conviction.
Denunzio’s resistance was captured on camera. The patrol vehicle was equipped with a camera system that the police department is currently testing. The Chief of Police is going to review the video in order to determine whether further investigation is warranted. Several witnesses were interviewed at the scene. The police department encourages any members of the public that witnessed the incident to contact the police department at (805) 897-2347.
S.B.C.C.C. The place where COMMON SENSE never goes out of style!