Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez announced yesterday that no further investigation will be conducted regarding allegations of excessive force by three officers in a contentious arrest last week.
Officers arrested Santa Barbara resident Tony Denunzio last Friday in the Loreto Plaza parking lot for driving under the influence, resisting arrest and various other charges and have since received numerous eyewitness accounts claiming the officers severely and unnecessarily injured the seemingly compliant suspect. Sanchez reviewed footage of the incident caught on a dashboard camera in one of the patrol cars and determined that arresting officer Aaron Tudor and two additional SBPD officers complied with standard law enforcement procedures.
However, the police department’s press release confirmed that the video of the arrest — which has not been made available to the public despite multiple requests — depicts only a portion of the incident. According to Sanchez, the footage showed the brawl intensifying as it moved out of the Dash Cam’s range.
“It is a good thing that most of the incident was captured on video,” Sanchez said in the statement. “However, the resistance was so strenuous that the struggle moved outside the view of the video recording, and for approximately one minute, I was unable to see what transpired in that time frame. In fact, in that one-minute time frame, it took three officers to eventually take custody of Denunzio.”
An SBPD statement released earlier this week said officers used numerous palm and knee strikes to the back, ribs, head and face as well as several Taser stuns to subdue Denunzio, who was later treated for a broken nose and rib pains at the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital.
Despite onlookers’ reports, Sanchez said the three officials responded in an appropriate manner given the situation.
“The use of force is never desirable,” Sanchez said in the press release. “It is difficult for members of the public to witness, particularly someone not familiar with police arrest/use of force training. To an outside observer, the use of this type of force may seem excessive. However, with the possibility of a fleeing suspect being armed, and officer safety at stake when making an arrest of a non-complying suspect, the techniques and force used by the arresting officer in a split second decision making mode is standard law enforcement operating procedure.”
According to Denunzio’s attorney, Darryl Genis, the SBPD’s statement failed to publicize the controversial incident and created an ambiguous response for the community.
“If the Dash Cam of the incident even remotely supported the police propaganda contained within today’s press release, it would have already been released to the television media for public viewing,” Genis said in a press release. “The fact that it has not been released, coupled with the carefully written media spun press release of this morning says it all. Chief Cam Sanchez does not need to say a word.”
Sanchez maintained that Denunzio’s aggressive behavior warranted the officers’ response.
“DUI enforcement can be very dangerous for our officers, as intoxicated drivers are frequently uncooperative, resistive and at times even combative,” Sanchez said in a press release. “Mr. Denunzio’s choice to drink and drive — in violation of his probation terms — was a very bad decision. He further compounded this error by resisting our officers.”
Genis said the matter could easily be resolved if the department were to release the video and allow citizens access to the evidence.
“We the public do not need to take [Sanchez’s] or any officer’s word when we can instead watch and listen with our own ears and eyes as if we were there,” Genis said. “Santa Barbara wants to know the truth about this incident, and it wants to know sooner, not later. The good citizens of Santa Barbara deserve nothing less from their police and its chief.”