The jury in the historic trial of a San Francisco police officer for the excessive use of force used to detain a suspect reached verdicts on three of four counts on Monday, acquitting Terrance Stangel of the charges, but they remained deadlocked on a final count.
SFPD Officer Terrance Stangel has been on trial since early February in the controversial 2019 beating of domestic violence suspect Dacari Spiers near Fisherman's Wharf, and jurors were in deliberations since last Tuesday, March 1. On Monday morning, jurors informed the judge in the case that they had reached a verdict on two counts, but they remained deadlocked on two others.
Stangel faced four felony counts: battery with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and assault under the color of authority.
As KTVU reports, Judge Teresa Caffese ordered the jury to continue deliberating Monday, during what was their fourth day of deliberations. Caffese reportedly questioned the foreperson as to whether he believed the jury could reach a verdict on the two remaining counts, and despite sending an earlier note about the difficulties the jurors are having, the foreperson said he believed they could.
The votes were reportedly 11-to-1 on count No. 3 and 9-to-3 on count No. 4, but they did not disclose which direction the jury was leaning.
As of 3 p.m., as KRON4 reports, the jury had reached a verdict on the third count, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. And they are acquitting Stangel on all three counts, but they were deadlocked on the charge of assault under the color of authority.
The case, the first in which an SF cop is facing felony charges for forcibly detaining and injuring a suspect in the line of duty, is an important one for District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his pledge to hold unnecessarily violent police officers to account. In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Young contended that officers did not recognize Spiers "as human," and she suggested that Spiers being Black figured into the officers' decisions on that day in October 2019.
"It’s common knowledge that tall, dark Black men are often associated with menace," Young told the jury, and she argued that "nothing justified" the multiple blows that Stangel delivered with his baton once Spiers was already on the ground. Spiers would end up suffering a broken leg as well as other injuries, and he was never charged with any crime.
Officers arrived at the scene believing a domestic abuse situation was occurring, however they had no visual evidence of this themselves, and Spiers' girlfriend, Breonna Richards, testified at trial that Spiers was never violent with her and she would have told officers if he was roughing her up.
The case has caused a rift to grow between the SFPD and the DA's office, in particular after a DA's office employee testified that colleagues had instructed her to remove evidence of Spiers' abuse — a statement from a 911 caller about what they saw — from his arrest warrant. The judge ruled that this evidence was redundant and not relevant to this case, but the uproar surrounding this led to SFPD Chief Bill Scott announcing a withdrawal from an agreement with the DA on the investigation of use-of-force cases.
Another officer testified in the case that police on the scene declined to interview two eyewitnesses who could potentially have corroborated the domestic violence claim.
Stangel's defense, all along, has been that Spiers and his girlfriend are lying, and that Spiers put up a significant fight that required the officers to take decisive action to subdue him. Stangel testified in his own defense that he "believed every single baton strike at the time was necessary."
The jury clearly sided with Stangel, and dealt a major blow to Boudin and his team. In comments to Mission Local, after the verdicts were read, ADA Young said this was "hugely disappointing." And, Young said, "there was abundant evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of an assault by excessive force once Dacari Spiers was on the ground and was being held down by his partner."
Stangel's attorney, Nicole Pifari, tells Mission Local, "We’re happy that the jury took their job so seriously, and we think that the verdict is the right one."
Separate from this trial, the City of San Francisco has moved forward with a $700,000 settlement for Spiers in a civil case.
This post has been updated throughout to reflect the verdicts and the attorneys' comments.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images