Peter Butcher, the 21-year-old UC San Diego student who was arrested and then cleared for three syringe attacks last April, has filed a claim of misconduct against the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department.
Butcher was initially arrested on April 6 on three charges of assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly stabbing women with a syringe and injecting them with a tranquilizer. However, Butcher was released from jail on April 18, after witnesses and polygraph results confirmed Butcher had been in San Diego on April 5, when a 21-year-old female Isla Vista resident was stabbed and sedated while she was jogging near Sandpiper Golf Course. No charges were ever filed against Butcher.
Arnie Schwartz, an attorney from the Los Angeles-based law firm Mazursky, Schwartz and Angelo, is representing Butcher. He said Butcher filed the claim because he felt the Sheriff’s Dept. had handled the case poorly.
“I think the basic reason why he’s filed this is because of the injustice related to what we feel is a rush to judgement by the police involved,” Schwartz said. “We think they had adequate info to know it wasn’t him and yet charged him and made some very public comments on TV. This has had some real adverse impacts on him emotionally.”
Schwartz said although he advocated proper criminal investigations, carelessness in such cases can seriously impact people’s lives.
“[We’re] not against appropriate police investigations for the protection of the community, but overzealous and rush-to-judgement thinking that hurts people,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said his client wanted compensation for what happened.
“We want to seek justice, seek answers and hopefully hold those accountable for what they did,” he said.
Schwartz said filing a claim of misconduct against a governmental agency within six months of a particular event is “a routine administrative hurdle” before filing a civil suit. He also confirmed Butcher does intend to file a civil suit.
Sgt. Phil Willis, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Dept., declined to comment regarding Butcher’s claim. However, Willis said Butcher was not the only suspect investigated for the attacks.
“We investigated a number of suspects. We served a number of search warrants,” he said. “Butcher was not the only person looked into.”
The Sheriff’s Dept. is still looking for the attacker, Willis said. The first of the three attacks occurred on January 11, when a 63-year-old French tourist on a Santa Barbara beach was stabbed in the buttocks with a syringe. The second attack occurred in Mammoth, Calif, when a female skier was knocked down and injected.