The Palo Alto Police Department posted on Friday video footage of the July 10, 2019, arrest of Julio Arevalo, who suffered a facial bone fracture while being detained by an officer near the entrance to Happy Donuts on El Camino Real.
The department released the video on Friday afternoon, hours after this news organization submitted a Public Records Act request for footage associated with the arrest from police body cameras and the police vehicles. The video was posted on YouTube, along with surveillance video footage from the doughnut shop at 3916 El Camino Real.
Arevalo, who was 23 years old at the time of the arrest, is one of two residents who have recently filed complaints against the department, alleging excessive force. In November, the City Council approved a $572,500 settlement over the February 2018 arrest of Gustavo Alvarez at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office is now considering filing charges against one of the arresting officers, retired Sgt. Wayne Benitez, who was seen in that video slamming Alvarez into the hood of a car.
While the Happy Donuts surveillance video was previously released, the footage from the officer's body camera is being made public for the first time. Unlike the surveillance video, it includes audio from the incident, which took place at about 2:24 a.m. It shows Arevalo walking slowly with a bicycle outside the shop when police Agent Thomas DeStefano walks up behind him. Arevalo asks DeStefano to "back up please," upon which time DeStefano asks him if he is on probation.
"Am I being detained?" Arevalo asks.
"Yeah you are," DeStefano responds.
Arevalo backs up, leans his bicycle against a railing and turns his back to the officer, at which time DeStefano signals over the radio that the probationer is walking away from him. DeStefano then puts one arm on Arevalo's shoulder and another on his arm.
"What am I doing?" Arevalo asks.
"You're on probation. You're being detained," DeStefano responds.
Arevalo continues to walk away from DeStefano, toward an area near the doughnut shop entrance that is enclosed by a railing. Arevalo walks to the railing and DeStefano gets near him and tries to pin his arm behind his back to detain him. Arevalo then starts yelling, "Let go of me! Let go of me. … My doughnut, dude! What am I being detained for?"
Arevalo continues to howl and scream at DeStefano, who tells him once again he is on probation.
"I'm not even resisting!" Arevalo said, as he continues to lean against the railing. "Oh, my back! My Arm! Aw … He's hurting me! I'm not resisting! I don't even know what's going on!"
He then stops screaming to ask a guy in the parking lot, "Hey, are you recording this, man?"
When DeStefano pins Arevalo's arm behind his back, Arevalo screams back, "Hey! Let go of me, please! Why are you f---ing arresting me?"
He then continues to ask DeStefano why he is being arrested and at one point tells him, "You're going to break my arm!" as he holds onto the railing in front of the doughnut shop.
DeStefano then presses Arevalo against the railing as he tries to handcuff him.
As DeStefano repeatedly tells him to let go of the railing, Arevalo responds, "You let go!" and screams "My arm! My arm!" He then shouts, "Why? Why? What am I being arrested for? What am I being arrested for?"
DeStefano then takes Arevalo down and flips him on the ground. Arevalo continues to moan and wiggle his arms and legs. DeStefano tells him to stop resisting.
"Are you OK?" DeStefano asks, as Arevalo moans on the ground.
He continues to instruct Arevalo to stop resisting as the latter lies prone on the ground and tries to kick his legs up toward DeStefano, who finishes handcuffing Arevalo.
"Stop kicking me," DeStefano says, as Arevalo continues to moan and wail. "Stop!"
At that point, another officer arrives and the two continue to talk to him. That officer then lifts Arevalo off the ground.
"Are you going to be cool? Because you're under arrest," one officer asks him. "Stop acting stupid."
In an introduction to the video, police Lt. James Reifschneider said the officer had recognized a man who he knew was on active probation. The officer, he said, saw the man conduct what he "believed could have been a hand-to-hand drug transaction." Arevalo, however, was never charged for selling drugs and the video offers no evidence that he was doing so. He can be seen in the beginning of the video walking in the parking lot of Happy Donuts with a paper bag, from which he can be seen taking out a doughnut just before DeStefano approaches him.
Reifschneider also noted in the video introduction that Arevalo was on probation at the time for two separate crimes and that the officer observed him "appear to be nervous and sweating profusely."
"The officer believed the man may have been under the influence of narcotics and attempted to stop him," Reifschneider said.
Arevalo's attorney, Cody Salfen, has argued that the police had no reason to arrest his client or to use force against him. In filing a $3.84 million claim against the department last November, Salfen also maintained that the department had failed to provide Arevalo with adequate medical care after the incident, which he said resulted in a shattered orbital bone (which forms the eye socket) and a concussion.
Reifschneider said that paramedics did come to the scene to treat Arevalo before he was released back into police custody. After officers transferred him to the police station to complete the paperwork, Arevalo's face began to swell, Reifschneider said, and he was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
"At the hospital, officers learned that the man was suffering from a fractured orbital socket," Reifschneider said in the video.
He also noted that after the hospital admitted Arevalo, the department forwarded the case to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office to review charges for resisting arrest, being under the influence of narcotics and battery of an officer.
Reifschneider said the video was released on Thursday in accordance with Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748, which require public disclosure of police video and other materials for incidents that involve use of force that results in injury.