SAN FRANCISCO – Two Northern California sheriff's deputies seen beating a suspect on surveillance video last year offered the man's belongings to homeless witnesses so they would not speak out about what they saw, the man's attorney alleged.
Lawyer Michael Haddad said Alameda County deputies approached a homeless man in a San Francisco alley after the November beating of Stanislav Petrov and gave him Petrov's large gold chain with a medallion, cash and cigarettes, The Oakland Tribune reported Monday.
"I think it was implied that he wanted them to be quiet," Haddad said of the exchange, adding that he had spoken with the homeless onlookers.
Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, told reporters that the agency was investigating.
"They are no better than the criminals they arrested, if these allegations are true," Nelson said about the deputies.
They have been on paid administrative leave since the San Francisco public defender's office released video showing the deputies repeatedly hitting a man with their batons as he screamed. He had broken bones in both hands and severe bruising to the head and body, his attorney said.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon says he has not decided whether he will charge the deputies.
The incident began when authorities spotted Petrov in a stolen car in Castro Valley. Petrov rammed two deputies' vehicles and then led law enforcement on a chase across the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge before deputies on foot caught up to him in the Mission District of San Francisco, according to the sheriff's office.
Petrov was resisting arrest and reaching for his waistband, which made the deputies fear he was armed, according to their statements.
Haddad questioned the deputies' statements, which were taken four days after the video was released.
"I'm suspicious that these are false reports that probably replaced earlier reports that were thrown away," Haddad said.
Information from: The Oakland Tribune, http://www.oaklandtribune.com