The latest attempt by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and Superior Court Judge Brian Hill comes under fire. A California lawyers Group challenges the court as to “What jurisdiction does the Court have over Defense Witnesses and over other interested persons regarding their First Amendment rights?” Many Local Observers Including Myself see this as a Sheer act of Desperation on there part!
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!
updated: Oct 22, 2011, 12:31 PM
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.
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..
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.
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.
Police Tell a Different Story of Fateful Traffic Stop That Spurred ‘Excessive Force’ AccusationsOfficer, SBPD say DUI suspect disobeyed commands and resisted arrest, which led to 'physical altercation' and Tasering
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gigi, you should hope you’re never stopped by certain SBPD officers.
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.
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.
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
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.
@Really? - That’s all the perspective I need for now.
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.
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.
The officer could possibly find the three lane changes without a signal on upper State in less distance.
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.
City of Santa Barbara
Contact: Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte
Phone: (805) 897-2332
Fax: (805) 897-3733