Cops, Lies, and Videotape Part 2: Another Case Dismissed Because of Officer Misconduct
In his crusade against the San Francisco Police Department, Public Defender Jeff Adachi held a press conference on Wednesday to announce that a recent drug sales case was dropped after surveillance showed officers illegally entering a Richmond apartment where a medical marijuana card-holder lived.
Robert Amparan, a private defense attorney, who was defending McLaren Wenzell against charges of drug possession, told SF Weekly that while this case is isolated from the Henry Hotel scandal earlier this month, it shows that similar lawlessness is widespread in the SFPD.
"The police department is trying to say we have this isolated tumor that we're in control of and it's not going to spread," he says.
Amparan said Officer Michael Chang, Sergeant Gary Watts, and Officer Martinez responded to a report of a marijuana scent within the private apartment complex at the corner of 33rd Avenue and Geary Boulevard. Without a search warrant or permission, the officers drove into the parking garage of the apartment complex -- they drove in after a resident had opened the garage door, according to Amparan.
The officers then asked the woman if they could search the building. They stated in the police report that she had given them permission to be there.
Once cops were there, the "woman didn't feel she had a choice," Amparan says. "How could you ask for permission to get into the building when you're already in it?"
Amparan said the surveillance footage he got from the apartment building shows the officers walking door-to-door, sniffing for pot.
They ran into McLaren in the hallway, and claimed they smelled burnt marijuana, according to Amparan. They talked to him for nine minutes, trying to get permission to search his room, but he refused.
He did, however, go back into his room to gather his doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana (but no license), and a glass jar filled with pot.
The officers followed him into the room, and two witnesses who were in the room saw Sergeant Watts draw his gun. After searching the room, the officers found 410 grams of pot, and demanded to know: "Where's the money?"
It's the latest drug case that's been dismissed because of alleged police misconduct. Earlier this month, Adachi unleashed a massive investigation against the SFPD after surveillance footage he'd obtained from the Henry Hotel showed police officers unlawfully entering rooms, and then later covering it up in police reports.
The scandal led District Attorney George Gascón to dismiss more than 70 cases involving the eight officers from Southern Station.
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