Video Reveals Illegal Searches, Police Brutality

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News

Published on May 11, 2011 with 3 Comments

In another episode of alleged police misconduct and perjury, Jefferson Hotel tenant Fernando Santana points to a duffel bag on surveillance video that he said plain-clothed SFPD Officer Guerrero stole from him after illegally searching his room without consent. Photos by Luke Thomas.

From the Office of Public Defender Jeff Adachi

May 11, 2011

A troubling surveillance video released by the Public Defender Jeff Adachi today reveals San Francisco Police Department officers physically attacking a bystander after illegally searching the room of a residential hotel resident.

The footage, the latest in a string of videos revealing serious police misconduct, prompted Adachi to renew his call for police to employ a zero tolerance policy for officers who commit perjury.

“With Police Chief Greg Suhr taking the helm, the time is ripe for a culture change in our city’s police department,” Adachi said. “Officers who are caught breaking the laws they should be upholding or brutalizing the citizens they should be protecting have no place serving San Francisco.”

Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

The latest video, which shows a Dec. 30, 2010 drug arrest at the Jefferson Hotel, contradicts police officers’ sworn statement on several counts and appears to support the resident’s claim officers stole his property. In the report, police justify detaining 48-year-old Fernando Santana in the hotel lobby after claiming to see crack cocaine in his outstretched hand.

In the video, however, Santana’s hands are in his pockets. Police, who claim to have Santana’s permission to search his residence, are seen on surveillance tape searching the room while a handcuffed Santana shakes his head.

Perhaps the most shocking moment of the video occurs several minutes into the search, when a bystander is seen casually walking up to the room and peeking inside. As he begins to walk away, Officers Ricardo Guerrero and Peter Richardson sprint from the room and violently tackle him in the hallway, placing him in a choke hold. The officers hold the bystander while Officer Robert Sanchez and Sergeant Kevin Healy search him, finding nothing. The man is released. In the police report, this interaction is described only as a brief detention.

Bystander Joseph Meires said plain-clothed Officers Ricardo Guerrero and Peter Richardson attacked him and placed him in a choke hold after he peeked inside the residency where police were illegally searching Fernando Santana's possessions.

Santana, who was arrested for possession for sale of crack cocaine, filed a police report following his release from jail after realizing a black bag duffel bag and numerous electronics and other valuables were missing from his room. Santana believed hotel personnel had stolen the property while he was incarcerated. However, the surveillance video, which was obtained after Santana reported the items stolen, shows Guerrero walking out of Santana’s room with a full black duffel bag. The bag was never booked into evidence nor mentioned in the police report, said Santana’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Qiana Washington.

Public Defender Qiana Washington.

Other important aspects of the arrest left out of the police report but revealed in the footage include officers searching Santana’s lobby mailbox and Guerrero visiting other floors of the hotel prior to directing his attention to Santana. Guerrero testified in a May 5 hearing that he followed Santana into the hotel after seeing him conducting a narcotics transaction outside. In fact, video footage shows Guerrero enter the hotel just ahead of Santana, go directly upstairs and wander through several floors. It was only after Guerrero left the hotel and later returned that Santana was detained, searched, and arrested. Guerrero’s initial entry into the hotel was omitted from the police report as well as his testimony at the May 5 hearing.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Carol Yaggy dismissed the case against Santana May 5 after Sanchez did not show up to court, despite a subpoena requiring him to testify. Santana was prepared to take the stand and describe how supervising officer Sgt. Jacob Fegan instructed him where to sign a document at the police station, despite Santana’s pleas that he could not read the form. The document turned out to be a consent form to search his residence.

Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office said each hotel surveillance tape acquired by his office has shown inconsistencies with police reports.

“We’ve yet to run across a single video that matches up with what police swear to in their report,” Gonzalez said. Adachi and Gonzalez have also called upon the Board of Supervisors to draft legislation outlawing the use of residential hotel master keys by police.

Public Defender Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez.

Officers involved in the Dec. 30 arrest are Ricardo Guerrero, Reynaldo Vargas, Jacob Fegan, Peter Richardson, Robert Sanchez and Kevin Healy. In 2009, Guerrero was the subject of a New York Times article that identified him as one of the highest-paid police officers in San Francisco. Guerrero earned $223,170 in 2008, according to the New York Times.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:


Comments for Video Reveals Illegal Searches, Police Brutality are now closed.

  1. FriscoPaul
    highlights malfeasance by Frisco Texas Police Department and malicious
    prosecution by Collin County Prosecutors. We now know that tampered evidence
    was used at trial, this has been confirmed by multiple experts. Looks like
    Frisco PD made a few mistakes. The overall question is, who authorized it

  2. Indiana Supreme Court reportedly just overturned 4th Ammendment Right to protection from unlawful search and siezure.

  3. Does anyone know what, if anything, our City Attorney is gonna do about this. Guess we’ll have to wait and hear it from him directly as he is, at least temporarily, without a mouthpiece. Anyone wanna job as Consigliore.