Wait for it….. wait for it! There it is, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe’s pass for the Redwood City police officers responsible for the August 2018 death of 55 year old Ramsey Saad, the 2nd of three such deaths, under similar circumstances, at the hands of San Mateo County officers, this year.
Slight of hand
In an apparent slight of hand, Wagstaffe released his decision not to charge the officers involved, by way of a proxy, Redwood City Police Chief Dan Mulholland -with his (Wagstaffe) providing a six-page letter stating no charges would be filled, and Mulholland, in-turn, conveniently passing it on to the press.
This letter was given to Mulholland, on the eve of the November 2018 election, immediately before the weekend. Undoubtedly cognizant of press cycles, Wagstaffe had timed the disclosure, to limit media exposure and public attention.
Wagstaffe’s findings can not be relied upon
Wagstaffe’s decision was never in doubt, it was foregone, and only a matter of timing its announcement. The disclosure was artful and designed to provide the appearance of a thoughtful measured process. Bravo, Steve!
The results of Wagstaffe’s review were predictable, could be foreseen, and will most certainly be repeated. From district attorney to the district’s chief enabler, covering for institutional, organizational, and executive misconduct / corruption. Defending the indefensible, the district attorney’s office is clearly open for business, for the politically connected.
No checks & balances
Steve projects confidence, obviously believing he can sell snake oil to anyone or, another analogy, sell ice to eskimos. And he has a right to this belief, to a certain degree, for he has no credible adversaries, no persons to keep him in check. The County has a private defenders program, versus a public defenders office-the only one in the state (of 58 counties).
The significance is the private defenders program, historically, assigns cases through a panel to obedient attorney’s, ones who sell / market pleas to defendants, rarely file opposition motions or take cases to trial, and routinely, with regularity, funnel clients to state prison, county jail, and probation. Just look at the District Attorney’s conviction rate (win-loss record), it’s to die for -is the envy of other bay area counties.
This relationship between prosecution and defense has also dulled the senses and oversight of the County’s judiciary, with judges not being challenged (by the defense, the private defender’s program) to make significant calls on the law.
The relationship between Wagstaffe and county law enforcement executives is mutually beneficial and self serving, he covers for them and, in turn, they return the favor, with their political support & acquiescence.
When officers and public officials who matter commit crimes such as domestic violence, unnecessary and excessive use of force, sex crimes, etc., the results are often managed by county law enforcement executives, with the complicity and aid of Mr. Wagstaffe, resulting in distinctly different outcomes from the general public.
Use of force resulting in death foreseen
In the instant case, officers allegedly responded to a disturbance call involving Saad, a person with known mental health issues. Rather than collaborate with his supervisor and peers and come up with a strategy to address the situation and reduce the possibility of violence / injury, Officer Poveda drove directly to the scene, contacted Saad, and became involved in a physical confrontation with him. Poveda tased Saad, twice, and shocked him multiple times. Officer Poveda, according to Wagstaffe, was eventually able to handcuff Saad and thereupon joined by three other officers (the Calvary).
According to Wagstaffe, Saad [while handcuffed] continued to struggle with the officers who had come to Poveda’s aid. Eventually one officer placed a knee [on Saad’ s back] between his shoulder blades, while the two other officers present controlled his mid-body and legs, according to Wagstaffe.
Saad died and a medical examiner from the San Mateo County coroner’s office determined the cause of death to have been “a cardiac arrest occurring during physical exertion, physical restraint and tasering”, this according to Wagstaffe’s letter.
Wagstaffe anecdotally included Saad’s height and weight, in his letter, apparently to portray him as menacing. Yet he did not include the heights and weights of the four trained Redwood City Police officers who were involved.
In tasing a person multiple times, physically struggling with him, and finally placing a knee on his back, as he lay handcuffed facedown, restricting the movement of his chest, torso and legs, is it possible his breathing had been severely diminished, causing him to die from asphyxia? Just asking, Steve.
Did you present this information to the medical examiner who conducted Saad’s autopsy, Steve? Just asking. And how much did the officer placing a knee and on Saad’s back weigh? Again, just asking.
Aren’t officers specifically trained not to lay a large handcuffed prisoner on his/her stomach, Steve? Could such acts go towards an officer’s intent, Steve? Just asking.
DA Wagstaffe as an enabler
Under the circumstances, couldn’t Saad’s death have been foreseen, Steve?
It appears, I can confidently predict what your conclusion will be, in these situations, why can’t you foresee that your actions or rather lack of action is ensuring such events will continue to occur, in San Mateo County, with, I might add, some regularity, unabated?
I submit, by continuing to give officers a pass, in such instances, DA Wagstaffe is an enabler, significantly contributing to both the cause and tragic outcome of such events.
Not an honest broker
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe holds the public’s trust, he is supposed to be independent and an honest broker, one the public can count on to speak truth to power. Three officer use of force deaths, this year, alone, and counting, ALL involving persons of color, individuals with known mental health problems, multiple applications of a taser, and forceful positional restraint!
Come on, Steve, there’s a problem with the use of force by officers, in San Mateo County! They’re killing persons with regularity, Steve! It’s not a product liability problem, you can’t keep covering up for that which is so obvious.
Call for transparency & full disclosure
In order to establish the truth and garner public trust, I would ask DA Wagstaffe to provide a complete copy of his office’s investigative report into Saad’s death, the autopsy report, the death certificate, the computer aided dispatch (CAD) printout for the event, the involved recorded 9-1-1 call(s) involved, and the recorded Redwood City Police radio communications involved in the event.
It is believed the public’s interest, in this matter, far outweighs that of the decedent, the San Mateo County District Attorney, the Redwood City Police Department, and the San Mateo County Coroners Office. The fact that this is one of three such use of force deaths, in the county, this year, involving persons of color who suffered mental heath issues make such disclosures even more important, if the district attorney wishes to establish transparency and the public’s trust.
By Michael G. Stogner