• Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

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Former California officers indicted for allegedly beating Black teen

Two former Stockton, California officers were indicted by a grand jury in connection with their alleged beating of a Black teenager at the end of a car chase in 2020.

The Sept. 1 grand jury indictment against Michael Stiles and Omar Villapudua alleges felony assault by a public officer, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and great bodily injury enhancements for both. It was unsealed Friday.

“This indictment reminds all of us that when police use unlawful force they undermine community trust,” San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said at a news conference.

She said two other officers investigated by her office for their role in the encounter faced no allegations, but she couldn’t say why because the grand jury’s transcripts were still sealed. Stiles and Villapudua were fired by the city in spring for acting outside the department’s policy and training, Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said at the time.

Attorneys for the two officers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Stockton Police Officers Association said in a statement Friday that it “strongly disagrees” with the indictment, alleging that 17-year-old Devon Carter was a mortal danger behind the wheel and that he reached into his waistband as officers tried to detain him after the pursuit.

He “willfully and maliciously chose to lead officers on a dangerous and violent vehicle pursuit,” the union representing rank-and-file officers said.

Images released by Carter’s attorney show the extent of his injuries.Courtesy Law Offices of John Burris

Carter’s family is in the midst of a federal lawsuit against the city and the officers who detained the boy following the Dec. 30 chase. Their attorney, John Burris, released photos of Carter’s face bruised and swollen and compared the violence against him to that used by Los Angeles Police Department officers against Rodney King in 1991.

Body camera video and audio released by the lawyer has the teenager saying, “I’m not resisting” and “OK, OK, OK. I’m down” as he suffers blows in what Carter described as the fetal position.

“Devin was afraid that the officers were going to beat him to death,” Burris said in a statement in April.

The boy’s father, George Carter, said at a news conference Friday that he believes he will suffer “lifelong trauma.”

Prosecutors, he said, have “taken a step towards making things right.”

The teen was wanted for alleged reckless driving and led officers on a chase for a few minutes until his vehicle was spun out in what law enforcement describes as the pursuit intervention technique, or PIT maneuver, according to police and court documents.

The police union alleged Carter caused a crash between a law enforcement vehicle and a civilian’s car during the pursuit.

Carter was temporarily booked into juvenile detention facility on charges of evading and resisting arrest.

The next court hearing in the indictment was scheduled for Nov. 11. It’s not entirely clear what sentence the district attorney would request for Stiles and Villapudua if they’re successfully convicted.

“We’re not even close to having that conversation,” Salazar said.