I Saw The SFPD Beat a Man Bloody


root - Posted on 31 December 1969

A citizen witnesses police brutality in San Francisco

by Shadi (special to PNN)

Incident # 1: Wednesday, June 5, 2:00 pm.

I saw SFPD beat a man bloody in broad daylight. I was on Seventh and Market waiting for the bus when I noticed people running towards the McDonald’s on the corner. I ran over and pushed my way to the front of the crowd, shocked to see plainclothes cops and cops in uniform beating a man lying in the side entrance. Cops stood in front of a woman crying and screaming by a dark car abandoned on the street.

The loud wailing of sirens caused me to turn around, as police car after police car sped to the scene (I think at one point there were more than 15 police vehicles there). Cops began to harass the crowd composed mostly of local homeless. A white cop named Officer Spagnoli, badge number 1704, berated people who were talking about the situation. "What are you, an attorney?" he blasted at a young black brother with a large pink scar on the right side of his face, who wearing a Raiders jersey and talking about how what the police were doing wasn’t right.

Spagnoli moved past a group of homeless people. One white woman made a comment to a group of homeless people about the cop. "What did you say? Are you threatening me?" he yelled at an old Latino man with a cane standing next to the woman. As I pulled out my notebook to write down his badge number, Spagnoli began to yell, "What, are you going to file a report? Go ahead and file a report, go ahead."

I walked back towards the front of the crowd. The man’s pained yells had grown to moans. When about four officers picked him up and rushed him over to a police van, I finally got a glimpse. The man was probably in his 40’s, with medium brown skin and dark curly hair up to his shoulders. Dark blood covered his entire face and his body was limp as they dumped him into the police van and sped off, with two cop cars following.

The next day I spoke to Bill, one of the many Seventh and Market locals, who was sitting on a lawn chair across the street from where the man was beaten. He said the woman who was crying had been pulled over in her car. The woman had the man, who is mentally disabled (Bill said he takes thorazine), in the back and when the police got him out of the car, he tried to run back and bumped his head. The police struggled to pull him out of the car and subdue him, possibly triggering a panic button in the process, Bill said. Buddy, who said the man was "like a cousin" to him, wasn’t there at the time of the incident but said others told him the cops were unnecessarily brutal.

Me and about 100 other people were witness to blatant police brutality that afternoon. Witnessing the incident was not disturbing just because I saw yet another person of color getting beaten mercilessly by the SFPD, but also because I realized that not only do cops feel no remorse or regret, they have no reason to. There will never be repercussions for their actions because they are above the law in this city, no matter what the new police chief says.

Incident # 2: Thursday, June 6, 8:00 pm.

I never really thought of BART rent-a-cops as real police until my boyfriend was dragged away on our way back from a friend’s graduation ceremony at Lowell High School the day after the police brutality incident. We were at the Civic Center station and my boyfriend needed to add money to his ticket, but the machines weren’t working. So, we went to the booth and waited since the BART worker was on the telephone.

The worker looked up at us once, then looked down, talking on the phone while scribbling on a notepad. He was white and wore a light blue shirt. "Hey, we need some help real quick," I said. He mouthed to me, "I’m on the phone," and went back to talking. We stood for a few more minutes. He kept ignoring us. My boyfriend knocked on the glass. The guy didn’t look up. "We’re gonna report you," my boyfriend said. We walked over to the other end and spoke to a woman who was working in the other booth. I told the woman I wanted to report the other BART worker. She informed me that the guy was not a BART worker but undercover BART police. "Why didn’t he say anything?" I asked, just as the guy stormed up to me.

He got right in my face. "This is who you should be talking to, not to me," he said, pointing at Luice. "You didn’t say anything, how were we supposed—"I started to say, but before I could finish, he stormed over to my boyfriend and got right up in his face. Oh shit, I thought and ran over. "You want help, you need help, can I help you?" the guy blasted in my boyfriend’s face. "Get the fuck out of my face before I knock you out," my boyfriend responded. "What?" the guy said, pulling a badge out of his shirt pocket. His name was Officer Krehbiel, badge number 401. "Are you telling me to back the fuck up?" he asked angrily. "Yeah, why you getting all up in my face? I didn’t know you were a cop," my boyfriend said. "Step over to the side right now," Officer Krehbiel demanded.

His partner, Officer Haight, badge number 400, ran up. "Get back 20 feet," he told me. "Why?" I said, not moving. "Get back 20 feet!" He came towards me. I moved a step back. Officer Haight told my boyfriend, "You can’t talk to a cop like that." My boyfriend said, "Well, he ran up on me like this," showing him how his partner ran up on him. "You can’t run up on a cop like that, turn around!" Officer Haight yelled. The cop pushed my boyfriend against the wall, spread his legs and patted him down while a crowd of people gathered to stare. My boyfriend was handcuffed and dragged into the back room behind a locked blue gate.

He told me later that the two officers took him into an interrogation room to repeat their same line; you can’t do this and that to an officer. He explained that when anybody runs up on him and gets in his face he’s got to protect himself as instinct. They ran his I.D. to check his background while claiming that they are used to dealing with a lot of "insane" people and they thought that my boyfriend wasn’t acting sane. When his record came up clean they said he could go. We left, but not before I got both their names and badge numbers.

Incident # 3: Two days later…

I was riding the 5 Fulton bus to summer school when I noticed about four cop cars and a police van lined up outside of Hastings Law School. Out came three white youth, two males, one female, handcuffed and led by police. They marched out calmly; the girl was smiling a little. As the bus rolled past, I noted that there was no yelling or roughness, one of the cops even looked like he was chatting with his arrestee. I found out later that they had been protesting the infamous parking garage that is going to take the place of low-income housing. I am entirely in support of the fight, but what made me a little bitter inside was the striking difference between the way they had been arrested compared to the way my boyfriend had been. They were fighting City Hall while my boyfriend was just trying to update a BART ticket. And justice for all…

Someone once said that a society should be judged by how it treats its weakest citizens. If the condition of the lives of homeless, mentally ill, disabled, poor, elderly, and youth are a testament to how just and fair a society is, San Francisco should be ashamed. As for the pigs, from cops in Hunters Point brutalizing and fondling young children on Martin Luther King Jr. day to cops gunning down Idriss Stelley in a movie theater—SFPD are growing more and more ruthless. Something needs to be done to stop them. And more cops are not going to help anything, as Oakland’s mayor seems to think. What we need to do is come together to discuss solutions within our communities, not wait for city government to take care of us.

Listening to KPFA recently I heard everyday Oakland citizens gathering in a public meeting to discuss what to do about the police brutality, increasing homicides and lack of job skills in their community. I don’t think we have a sense of community togetherness and awareness like that in San Francisco, which makes me sad. We need to start coming together to discuss basic issues of injustice that affect all of us everyday and then PLAN ACTION. When there is a lack of checks and balances, we need somewhere to turn where our voices will be heard and our experiences will be valued and then we need to make moves to make change. Living in this police-state city is becoming more and more dangerous every single day, and seems that there is nowhere left for us to turn. And with a new culture of increased security, enforcement and military becoming the norm, the little dissent that is left may be silenced forever.

Please email the writer with ideas and action at youthpowerproject.com.

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