FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 12, 2022
MEDIA CONTACT: SF Public Defender’s Office | Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org | (628)249-7946
Charges Dismissed Against Man Whose Face was Fractured by SFPD During an Illegal Detention
SAN FRANCISCO — Yesterday, a prosecutor dismissed all charges against Sergio Lugo who was falsely accused of assaulting an SFPD officer when plainclothes police illegally detained him in February 2021. Police claimed that the altercation resulted in superficial wounds to an officer. The defense presented evidence that contested the illegal detention and eyewitness testimony from neighbors who consistently described what they observed as a “beating” of Mr. Lugo. The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office is releasing photos of the injuries Mr. Lugo incurred.
Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray, who represented Mr. Lugo, expressed outrage at the charges and relief for the dismissal: “The police had no right to detain, search, initiate force, and escalate force against Mr. Lugo who committed no crime. Police created this situation, and given the evidence, the prosecution finally did the right thing and dismissed these charges.”
On February 17, 2021, plainclothes officers observed Mr. Lugo walking around the Castro District in the early morning hours. Although he had committed no crime, two officers detained and questioned him. When they told Mr. Lugo that they intended to search him, Mr. Lugo asserted his right not to be searched and told them that he intended to walk away. Without any verbal warning, the two officers grabbed his arm, kicked his legs out from under him, and pinned him on the ground. A third officer joined, who later admitted to hitting Mr. Lugo 15-25 times.
When police first encountered Mr. Lugo, he was holding a silver object in his hand, which police thought was a vape pen. All parties agree that when police pinned Mr. Lugo, the cap fell off, revealing that it was an X-acto Knife – a small pen-shaped tool with a sharp edge often used in crafts. The sharp edge caused superficial cuts to one officer’s pinkie and knee, but the officers’ blows to Mr. Lugo’s head sent him to the hospital with bruises, lacerations, and a fractured cheekbone.
Several neighbors testified that they heard more than they could see, but what they observed caused two people to call the police. Their statements were consistent in that the three men on top were beating the man on the ground who was screaming in pain.
Nevertheless, Mr. Lugo was charged with assault on an officer, exhibiting a deadly weapon to resist arrest, and three counts of resisting arrest using force. He spent over four months in jail. This week, as the case was getting ready to go to trial – six months after his trial deadline had passed – the defense argued that Mr. Lugo had committed no crime and the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case in light of the overwhelming evidence.
“I know that many people still find it hard to believe that police in San Francisco harass, detain, illegally search, and violently attack people, and then file charges to justify their actions. Sadly, these are the types of cases that people in our communities and Public Defenders have to fight against, and part of the reason why it is so important for our courts to schedule more trials,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, who sued the San Francisco Superior Court in September 2021 to address the growing backlog of trials.
The defense team included Deputy Public Defender Alexandra Pray, Paralegal Nathan Conn, and Investigator Tim Kingston.
Ms. Pray has filed a complaint with the Department of Police Accountability on behalf of Mr. Lugo. The SFPD officers who were involved in this incident were Sgt. Alexander Lentz, Lt. Kevin Healy, and Ofc. Glennon Griffin.
Photos: Sergio Lugo granted permission to the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office to release these photos to the press.
Description: Sergio Lugo in the hospital after SFPD officers beat him on February 17, 2021. Mr. Lugo suffered a fractured cheekbone and several bruises and lacerations to his head and face.