Chief Scott and the police union are up in arms that charges were dropped in an alleged stabbing of an officer, but the suspect certainly took more of the beating, and details may have been too flimsy for a guilty verdict.
There is yet another new rift in the always-antagonistic relationship between the San Francisco Police Department and District Attorney Chesa Boudin. KTVU reports that Boudin has dropped the charges against a man accused of assaulting an officer, resisting arrest, and exhibiting a deadly weapon. Once the charges were dropped, SFPD chief Bill Scott fired off an angry statement to the Chronicle, saying, “These kinds of attacks are unacceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated by our criminal justice system,” and that “it sends a dangerous message that emboldens criminals.”
With all due respect to Chief Scott, it sure seems like the message sent here is the degree of ass-whooping police applied to the suspect seen above, Sergio Lugo. And there’s plenty about this case we don’t know, because the three officers involved were in plainclothes and did not have body cams activated. But the assault charges — particularly the allegation that Lugo stabbed an officer — may have been too wobbly to secure a guilty verdict.
Mission Local has a very detailed rundown of the Lugo incident. On February 17, 2021, police observed Lugo wandering the Castro in the early morning hours, and his behavior drew suspicion that he was casing households to commit a burglary. Two plainclothes officers approached for a little bit of interrogation, and thought he was holding a vape pen, which was actually an X-Acto knife. They tried to search him, Lugo said they didn’t have cause, and he tried to walk away. A beatdown allegedly commenced upon him.
According to Mission Local, “a third officer also not in uniform… admitted to punching Lugo in the face 15 to 20 times after hearing that Lentz had been stabbed, even though Lugo’s hand holding the knife was pinned to the ground.”
Lugo’s public defenders argued that the alleged stabbing was actually self-inflicted by the officer, who knocked off the knife’s cap, and merely cut himself while applying the beating. “The sharp edge caused superficial cuts to one officer’s pinkie and knee, but the officers’ blows to Mr. Lugo’s head sent him to the hospital with bruises, lacerations, and a fractured cheekbone,” his attorney said, according to KTVU.
Mission Local got a statement from SF Police Officers Association president Tony Montoya, who railed against Boudin’s “criminal’s first agenda [sic]” and said the department has a “collective disgust over Boudin’s continued refusal to prosecute criminals who assault and injure our officers.”
This will go down as Boudin dropping charges of assaulting an officer. But the reality is that he did bring charges last year, and as the case got closer to trial, the evidence was looking shakier, so he cut bait. For better or worse, that’s how the legal system works. But this case is likely to draw inordinate attention (even Newsweek just wrote it up) and serve as a recall rallying cry right up until the June 7 recall election.
Image: @chesaboudin via Twitter