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."

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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.

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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.

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Buena Vista resident who received city settlement faces burglary charges

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

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Nov 27, 2019, 1:59 pm
Updated: Fri, Nov 29, 2019, 9:00 am

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.

Comments

Family Friendly
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2019 at 3:40 pm
Family Friendly, Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2019 at 3:40 pm
47 people like this

I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:23 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:23 pm
10 people like this

Perhaps he should get a big fine!


merry
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 27, 2019 at 7:34 pm
merry, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2019 at 7:34 pm
9 people like this

Maybe the settlement was a bit early.


R. Ortiz
Menlo Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 8:15 pm
R. Ortiz, Menlo Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 8:15 pm
11 people like this

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.


Hulkamania
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 28, 2019 at 6:21 am
Hulkamania, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 28, 2019 at 6:21 am
7 people like this

Dude shoulda quit while he was ahead.


Moot
Ventura
on Nov 28, 2019 at 8:38 pm
Moot, Ventura
on Nov 28, 2019 at 8:38 pm
Like this comment

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.


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

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


musical
Palo Verde
on Nov 29, 2019 at 3:47 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Nov 29, 2019 at 3:47 pm
4 people like this

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


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2019 at 6:35 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2019 at 6:35 pm
2 people like this

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.


musical
Palo Verde
on Nov 30, 2019 at 7:47 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Nov 30, 2019 at 7:47 pm
4 people like this

London Bridge.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2019 at 9:04 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2019 at 9:04 pm
Like this comment

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde

>> London Bridge.

One anecdote proves anything.


Nick
another community
on Dec 1, 2019 at 10:49 am
Nick, another community
on Dec 1, 2019 at 10:49 am
13 people like this

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


Really?
Mountain View
on Dec 1, 2019 at 5:52 pm
Really?, Mountain View
on Dec 1, 2019 at 5:52 pm
4 people like this

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.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2019 at 11:54 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2019 at 11:54 am
5 people like this

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.


Screeedek
Registered user
Stanford
on Dec 2, 2019 at 1:28 pm
Screeedek, Stanford
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2019 at 1:28 pm
5 people like this

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!


Nick
another community
on Dec 2, 2019 at 6:03 pm
Nick, another community
on Dec 2, 2019 at 6:03 pm
9 people like this

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.


Lauren
Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2019 at 9:01 am
Lauren , Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2019 at 9:01 am
Like this comment

Waste of space.


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