News


Buena Vista resident who received city settlement faces burglary charges

Gustavo Alvarez accused of stealing cash, cigarettes from Valero gas station

Gustavo Alvarez, the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park resident who recently received a $572,500 settlement from the city of Palo Alto after he was violently arrested in 2018, has been charged with three counts of second degree burglary.

Alvarez appeared in court on Friday on the charges, which stem from allegations that he burglarized the same Palo Alto gas station three times over the course of a month.

Alvarez allegedly stole $500 in cash and $500 worth of cigarettes from the Valero gas station at 3972 El Camino Real, which is adjacent to the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, where Alvarez lives. He faces two felonies and one misdemeanor charge.

Alvarez's attorney, Cody Salfen of The Salfen Law Firm, suggested that the Palo Alto Police Department, the investigating agency for the case, has a conflict of interest given its past treatment of Alvarez. Now-retired Sgt. Wayne Benitez, then a supervising officer, slammed Alvarez on the hood of a car during an arrest in 2018 and was later seen on surveillance video making fun of Alvarez.

Earlier this year, Alvarez sued the city in federal court, claiming that the assault by Palo Alto officers followed "prior, repeated and ongoing harassment by the Palo Alto Police Department." He alleged that the officers' conduct was motivated by "hatred and prejudice of homosexual males."

As part of the eventual settlement, the city agreed to require all officers in the Police Department to go through two hours of LGBTQ sensitivity training and required Benitez to write an apology letter to Alvarez.

A statement from the city alluded to Alvarez's criminal record, which includes a 2012 arrest for robbery at the former JJ&F Market.

"While the city and Police Department sharply dispute the vast majority of Mr. Alvarez' claims and have deep concerns about Mr. Alvarez's continuing criminal behavior, the city believes that this resolution is in the best interests of all involved — including the Police Department, its police officers, and Mr. Alvarez," the statement reads.

"The Palo Alto Police Department has proven through their repeated mistreatment of Gustavo and similarly situated individuals that they operate by a different set of rules," Salfen said. "I don't know where that leads the case or it leads him but at this point in time he's innocent if and until the appropriate prosecuting agency can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did everything he's accused of doing."

On Sept. 9, Brandon James Correia, who owns the Valero, reported that a robbery had occurred overnight, according to the police report. Gustavo had allegedly entered the gas station through an open garage door, hid from an employee until he left for the night and then stole $200 from an unsecured box and spare change can, which was captured by a surveillance camera. Correia told police that he recognized Alvarez, who had worked at Valero for two weekends as a cashier about a year ago. Correia also identified Alvarez in a photo lineup, according to the police report.

Police reviewed the security video footage and confirmed a man crawling low under a service door into the business, "in an attempt not to be observed by the last employee inside of the business," and entered after the employee left, the police report states.

On Oct. 6, Correia was alerted by his alarm company that an alarm at the back door of the Valero had been activated, according to the report. He "decided to not have police respond" and logged into his surveillance video system from his phone to look at the footage, the report states. He saw a man, who he later identified as Alvarez, going into the gas station store from the unlocked back door, walking into the bathroom area and leaving about a minute later with merchandise in hand. Correia then drove to the gas station and called the police department's non-emergency line. Police again reviewed the video footage and said Alvarez "appears to be the male suspect seen on video breaking into the Valero gas station."

Alvarez allegedly stole approximately seven cartons of cigarettes, valued at about $500, Correia told police.

Six days later, Alvarez allegedly entered the gas station kiosk while it was unattended and stole $300 from the cash register, which was again captured on surveillance video, according to the police report.

Alvarez's next scheduled court appearance is set for January to enter a plea.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

43 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2019 at 3:40 pm

I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Perhaps he should get a big fine!


9 people like this
Posted by merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 27, 2019 at 7:34 pm

merry is a registered user.

Maybe the settlement was a bit early.


11 people like this
Posted by R. Ortiz
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 8:15 pm

There is a certain irony to all of these troubling events.

One thing is for certain...with his windfall from the City of Palo Alto, Mr. Alvarez will now be able to afford his own attorney rather than rely on a court-appointed attorney at tax-payer expense.


7 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 28, 2019 at 6:21 am

Hulkamania is a registered user.

Dude shoulda quit while he was ahead.


Like this comment
Posted by Moot
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 28, 2019 at 8:38 pm

Certain irony to all of this. It seems quite evident and without any doubt due to surveillance footage that he is guilty. Don’t agree with excessive use of force by the police, they kind of shot themslves in the foot there.


6 people like this
Posted by What did you expect these days!
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 29, 2019 at 12:55 pm

Low-lifes will be low-lifes! Maybe we should help the police to roust some of these people out of town to help lower the crime in the area!

Paying this guy off in the first place was ridiculous but apparently you can't trust a jury these days to have enough common sense to realize when someone is lying and isn't really "being picked on". The city never goes to court because they will end up with some bleeding heart jury that will fine them 2 or 3 million rather than the 500K they end up paying. So they just pay.

He will be back again because once he pays the lawyers this time they will have all of the money


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 29, 2019 at 3:47 pm

As in the fable about the scorpion, "He couldn't help it. It's in his nature."


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2019 at 6:35 pm

Posted by What did you expect these days!, a resident of Downtown North

>> Paying this guy off in the first place was ridiculous but apparently you can't trust a jury these days

Actually, it makes it all the dumber what officer whatshisname did at Buena Vista.

Unfortunately, punitive damages are the only tool that actually works to get rid of abusive police officers. I don't care how many felonies someone is guilty of-- it isn't the job of the police to administer the punishment on the spot. But, even more importantly, we don't want or need angry, impulsive cops who lose their cool. It is that simple. Keeping your cool in these situations is Job One. Unfortunately, big payouts seem to be the only thing that actually forces police departments to de-employ (they actually never seem to get -fired- like you or I would) abusive police officers.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 30, 2019 at 7:47 pm

London Bridge.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2019 at 9:04 pm

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde

>> London Bridge.

One anecdote proves anything.


9 people like this
Posted by Nick
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2019 at 10:49 am

He's a thief, who didn't deserve to be paid one time. He belongs in prison. Period.


4 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 1, 2019 at 5:52 pm

I get that the City did not want to upset residents by a long, expensive trial, but in this case, I think they should have. The only video released was what his lawyer released and it was cut to show some time after the vehicle was driven into the driveway.

The officer lost control and made remarks about Gustavo being gay, which changed the tone from a (still not justifyable aggressive/violent arrest) criminal matter to a gay bashing matter.

He, obviously, just became more emboldened in his criminal activity feeling he was untouchable. I mean,7 felonies, 11 misdeminers in a 20 year period? And those are just the ones he was charged on.

If you ever went into the park, they have people riding in and out by his place all hours of the day and night. I'm just glad the new owners put in security.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2019 at 11:54 am

Posted by Nick, a resident of another community

>> He's a thief, who didn't deserve to be paid one time. He belongs in prison. Period.

Police officers should control themselves at all time. Those who can't need to find another line of work. Period.


4 people like this
Posted by Screeedek
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 2, 2019 at 1:28 pm

Screeedek is a registered user.

It just proves that if the police can just keep their cool and act professionally, characters like this will eventually get themselves arrested on their own. No payout required!


8 people like this
Posted by Nick
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2019 at 6:03 pm

We should all keep our cool 100% of the time, but that's NOT reality. If the average person could lose their temper, how do you think cops handle it? The crap they have to put up with - I'm surprised they don't lose it more often. They HUMAN - not robots. It's not their fault that suspects are a**holes. Get real.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Legends Pizza Co. replaces Palo Alto Pizza Co.
By Elena Kadvany | 10 comments | 2,621 views

Premarital and Couples: 10 Tips for the Holidays
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 2,348 views

What is a "ton" of carbon dioxide anyway?
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 2,246 views

Do city officials ever consider giving taxpayers a break?
By Diana Diamond | 18 comments | 1,158 views

HIIT
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 975 views

 

The holidays are here!

From live music to a visit with Santa, here's a look at some local holiday activities to help you get into the spirit of the season.

VIEW