FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 14, 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: San Francisco Public Defender’s Office | Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org | (628)249-7946
Charges Dismissed Against Motorist Brutalized by SFPD Officers After Accidental Collision in 2018
Police claimed the man’s motorcycle pinned an officer in a car door, but video surveillance being released today shows otherwise
SAN FRANCISCO – The trial of David Cordero of San Francisco, CA, concluded last month with a San Francisco jury returning a mixed verdict in a case where Mr. Cordero was facing several charges, the most serious being a felony assault of a police office, after his motorcycle accidentally clipped a police car door in 2018. On that charge, the jury hung 7-5 in favor of not guilty, and on Friday, December 10th, that charge was dismissed. Today, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office is releasing videos of the incident in which several SFPD officers brutalized Mr. Cordero immediately after the accident.
“Police reports never tell the whole story, and in this case, it appears that officers conspired to tell a fabricated story in order to cover up and justify their brutal attack of Mr. Cordero,” said Deputy Public Defender Sylvia E. Cediel, who represented Mr. Cordero. “This trial seemed to be really eye-opening for the jurors, all of whom found the level of force used by the officers deeply disturbing.”
The incident happened around 4:30am on August 12, 2018, while Mr. Cordero was taking a test ride on a motorcycle he’d been fixing up for several months in hopes of making it street-worthy. Police claim that they saw him speeding and running several red lights on Post Street.
Two police vehicles followed Mr. Cordero for several blocks without giving any indication that they wanted to pull him over. Instead, they called another police car to intercept him at the corner of Post and Hyde Streets, where Mr. Cordero was stopped at a red light in the left lane of a one-way street. When Mr. Cordero saw a police car come from around the corner and stop in front of him in the opposite direction of traffic, he tried to get out of the way by pulling off toward the sidewalk. That’s when an officer opened the passenger door and the motorcycle clipped the door.
Three of the officers on scene, including the officer who opened the passenger door, reported and testified that Mr. Cordero had “pinned” the officer in the car door, indicating that the officer was trapped between the door and the car. However, surveillance videos showed that the officer in question moved out of the way before the door closed, contradicting the officers’ testimony given under oath.
During the trial, Ms. Cediel showed the jury two surveillance videos of the incident which contrasted the police reports. They showed that the officer who moved out of the way immediately pulled Mr. Cordero off of his motorcycle and began punching and kneeing him while he was on the ground. Three more officers joined in and assaulted Mr. Cordero to the point that he had to be transported to the hospital by an ambulance. In addition to punching and kneeing Mr. Cordero, an officer stepped on his ankle while he was handcuffed and attempted to pull his helmet off while the chin strap was still fastened. Mr. Cordero testified that officers also badly bent his thumb while escorting him to a police vehicle before he was transported by ambulance to SF General Hospital for medical staff to assess his injuries.
The officers claimed that Mr. Cordero was resisting arrest in order to justify the unlawful assault on him. However, officers’ Body Worn Camera footage provided audio of the encounter, in which Mr. Cordero can be heard saying, “I’m not resisting,” “I’m sorry. It was an accident,” and “You’re hurting me,” which did not convince the officers to stop.
The Public Defender’s Office is releasing those surveillance videos and a portion of the BWC videos today.
The jury found Mr. Cordero guilty of driving without a license and driving on a suspended license; not guilty of possessing burglary tools after the defense called an expert to testify that the tools in his possession were commonly available to motorcycle hobbyists and were not, as an officer falsely testified, “shaved keys”; and hung 7-5 in favor of not guilty on the count of assaulting an officer and 6-6 on the count of resisting arrest, both of which have now been dismissed.
“This is a case about credibility. But for the videos, the defense team would not have been able to show that the officers involved told a story that did not match the evidence. This is the type of systemic abuse that public defenders see regularly as we defend people against police reports that are presented as objective fact-based documents when they are not,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “Cases like this are a cautionary tale and serve to inform the public who may become jurors that the words inked in police reports should be scrutinized and taken with skepticism.”
The defense team included Deputy Public Defenders Sylvia E. Cediel and Christopher Garcia, Investigator Colin Olsen, Paralegal Margaret Miller, and Larry Roberts who provided technical support for the videos and court presentations.
The SFPD officers involved in this incident are Officer Steven Oesterich, Officer Christopher Cotter, Officer Michael DeFelippo, Officer Brendan Williams, Officer Aaron Cowhig, and Officer Anthony Sharron.
The Public Defender’s Integrity Unit is in the process of filing complaints with the Department of Police Accountability on a range of issues including excessive force and dishonesty.
Mr. Cordero has a pending civil lawsuit against the City of San Francisco for the brutality he suffered during this incident.
WARNING – The following videos contain distressing images and audio. Click on the images to access the videos.
- Surveillance Video – Post Street – Rear View
2. Surveillance Video – Hyde Street – Side/Front View
3. SFPD Body Word Camera with Audio