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Woman tells jury police beat her ex for no reason

A woman told jurors she was traumatized by seeing an officer brutally attack her ex-boyfriend with a baton, but a police officer’s lawyer used the woman’s past statements to question her credibility.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The former girlfriend of a Black man beaten by a San Francisco police officer’s baton welled up with tears Tuesday as she testified in a rare criminal trial against an officer accused of excessive force.

“I have days where those memories of that day come, and I just break down,” Breonna Richard told jurors.

Richard is the second person to testify in the first known criminal trial against a San Francisco officer accused of assault for on-duty conduct.

Responding to reports of domestic violence, police tried to stop and question Dacari Spiers near Pier 39 in San Francisco on Oct. 6, 2019. Police say Spiers refused to comply with their commands and shoved officers away when they tried to detain him.

Officer Terrance Stangel repeatedly hit Spiers with a baton, causing Spiers to suffer a broken wrist, broken leg and other injuries.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a former public defender who vowed to hold police accountable, filed four felony assault charges against Stangel in 2020. In opening arguments Monday, jurors hearing dueling narratives on whether the baton attack was a reasonable police action or excessive force.

Richard told jurors Tuesday that she got upset that night after discovering that her wallet went missing and was likely stolen. She said Spiers, whom she shared a home with at the time, tried to calm her down, hugged her, rubbed her face, kissed her forehead and told her “everything is going to be all right.”

Richard was not aware that two women who walked by the couple that night had called 911 and said someone matching Spiers’ description was choking a woman and dragging her by the neck down the street.

According to Richard, Spiers never laid a finger on her in the approximately 11 years they dated off and on before they split up in late 2019. If Spiers had harmed her, Richard said she would have told the police about it.

“He’s never put his hands on me ever,” Richard said.

Stangel's lawyer Nichole Pifari pressed Richard. “Are you aware he’s been arrested twice for domestic violence,” Pifari asked.

“No, ma’am,” Richard replied.

Richard told jurors that Stangel and his then-partner officer Cuahtemoc Martinez ran up on Spiers and started attacking him without ever announcing themselves or explaining why they were there.

“They just walked up aggressive and grabbed him,” Richard said. “All I could do was say ‘what did he do.’”

Officer Martinez, the first witness to testify at trial, previously told jurors he moved quickly to get Spiers away from Richard that night because he feared for Richard's safety.

On cross-examination, Stangel’s attorney read portions of statements Richard made to investigators on the night of the baton beating. According to the transcript, Richard said she and Spiers got in a verbal spat that evening after she accused his family and friends of stealing her wallet.

“Do you remember telling him, ‘It’s always something with your family,” Pifari asked.

Richard said she did not recall telling investigators that.

Pifari also asked Richard why she refused to tell a police officer who put her in the hospital in June 2020. Richard reportedly told an officer, “You can’t help me." But Richard testified Tuesday she did not recall being in the hospital or saying that.

 “Was Dacari the person who put you in the hospital with a serious head wound on June 16, 2020,” Pifari asked.

“No ma’am,” Richard answered.

Richard later told jurors that she and Spiers broke up long before June 2020 and that Spiers “had nothing to do with” her being in the hospital at that time.

“If Mr. Spiers had attacked you that night, you wouldn’t have told the police, would you,” Pifari asked.

“Yes I would, ma’am,” Richard replied.

Richard told jurors she had to get therapy and counseling after witnessing the baton beating. She said it worsened her anxiety and made her more reluctant to contact police for help.

“I feel even more scared of calling them,” Richard said.

Earlier Tuesday, Martinez told jurors that Spiers was twice as big as him in October 2019 and that Spiers committed a crime — battery on an officer — when he shoved Martinez as the officer tried to detain him that night.

Martinez said he felt it was appropriate for Stangel to use his baton that night because Spiers was pushing both officers and refusing to comply with their orders.

Under questioning from prosecutors, Martinez acknowledged he never told Spiers he was under arrest for battery on a police officer.

“At any point during the struggle with Mr. Spiers, did you tell him he was under arrest,” Assistant District Attorney Lateef Gray asked.

“I can’t recall,” Martinez replied.

The trial, which has widened an already deep chasm of trust between the DA’s office and police department, is expected to continue through Feb. 18.

Follow @NicholasIovino
Categories / Civil Rights, Criminal, Trials

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