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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

DA Office's Does Not Seek Charges After Assault on DPD Officers

The Vanguard has learned that on August 1, 2007, a 43 year-old homeless man was involved in an altercation with other homeless people at the Davis Community Shelter. He was apparently harassing others, began to vandalize the facility and refused to leave. But by the time police arrived he had left the facility. Nevertheless, a few minutes later he attempted to return at which point police attempted to arrest him for trespassing.

It was at this point that a scuffle ensued with the police. According to one witness, he actually lifted an officer over his head, but apparently no one was seriously injured. He was arrested for trespassing and assault on an officer.

However, two days later on August 3, he was released without charges being filed. According to Davis Police Chief Landy Black, court rulings on trespassing laws have been that if an individual leaves a place that is normally open to the public prior to officers arriving, then they cannot charge an individual with trespassing.

Nevertheless, the police were there for a valid reason and made a lawful arrest at which point the individual resisted in a violent manner and assaulted a police officer.

Landy Black expressed disappointment with the decision by the District Attorney's office to release the individual and not prosecute the crime - at least - of assault on a police officer at the time. However, he stressed that they are still working with the District Attorney to perhaps get charges filed at a later point.

In the meantime the Davis Police are using the incident as a learning experience to better understand the law in this regard and also to use it as a training exercise for future examples of how this could be handled better and what to do to avoid this kind of situation.

Sixteen days after he was initially released, on August 19, 2007, the individual was arrested again. This time he is being held in the county jail and has a court date set for September 5, 2007 at which point he faces charges for public intoxication, assaulting a peace officer, and resisting arrest for an incident that occurred on A Street and 10th Street in Davis.

The Deputy District Attorney in charge of his initial case was Steve Mount. Mr. Mount told me that he had no knowledge of this case after he declined to file charges on August 3, 2007. He told me that the trespassing charge failed to meet standards and that the assault charges were sent back to the police department for further reporting and that's the end of his involvement in the case.

For many, the complaints against the District Attorney's office have been that they over-prosecute fairly minor crimes. But from time-to-time, I have heard the opposite complaints--that they fail to prosecute more serious crimes.

This individual clearly both represented and represents a serious danger to the police and this community. He has a long arrest history that includes repeated arrests for assault, theft, drugs, and is a registered sex offender. Any individual who can manhandle the police or who would assault an officer is an individual that is a danger to the community at large.

Those familiar with the situation have openly wondered why this individual was released at the same time the District Attorney's office has vigilantly prosecuted many young people, particularly black and Hispanics for non-violent drug possession offenses and yet allowed this man with a long history of violence to be released.

There may be legitimate reasons that explain why the District Attorney did not initially seek charges of this individual. And they may yet seek charges against this individual for the August 1 incident, however that sixteen days that the individual was released exposed the public and the Davis Police to a dangerous individual who would repeat his actions. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt this time; however, we may not be so lucky next time.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting