A San Francisco police officer was caught on Muni video striking a homeless man with a baton and pepper spraying him when the 36-year-old rider wouldn’t get off the bus at the end of the line.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released the roughly 4-minute video Thursday showing the Feb. 11 event at Cabrillo and La Playa streets near Ocean Beach.
Adachi, who has been releasing a string of proactive videos of police officer conduct, said this officer “dramatically” escalated his use of force and was “overreacting to a minor conflict.”
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr defended Officer Raymond Chu, basing his conclusion on the video, the police report and the bus driver's statements.
"I'm comfortable since it has been held over for trial and viewed by the District Attorney that they’re not seeing anything as shocking as Mr. Adachi would have anybody believe," Suhr said.
Suhr added that Chu, a 10-year veteran of the police department, was simply responding as he was trained.
The District Attorney's Office also did not immediately back down from Adachi's assertions.
“We are reviewing all the evidence to make sure the case was handled appropriately,” San Francisco District Attorney’s spokesman Max Szabo said. “The court has ordered the defendant to seek mental health treatment.”
It was nearly two weeks ago that Chu responded to a report of a person sleeping on a 5-Fulton about 11 p.m.
The video shows Chu trying to rouse 36-year-old Bernard Warren for more than 30 seconds before Warren awakens, disheveled and disoriented. At first, Chu is gentle. “Hey buddy,” Chu is heard saying several times.
When he finally wakes up, Warren appears to have trouble standing and walking. Chu begins pushing him toward the exit. On his way off the bus, Warren, who Adachi said has a slurred speech impediment, slowly mumbles over his shoulder to Chu, “Don’t touch me. I could beat your a--.”
Chu becomes enraged. He can be heard yelling: “Dude, f---king what did you say?” and shoves and kicks Warren off the bus, as the homeless man staggers in the street. At another point, he shouts at Warren, "Get off the f---ing bus."
As Warren walks away, Chu brandishes his police baton, yelling “We done here? We done here? Yeah, keep walking.”
Chu then follows Warren and strikes him with the baton as Warren continues to stumble in the street, all of which is captured on video.
Chu wrote in his police report that Warren approached him with clenched fists and that he hit Warren in the legs five times with a baton before deploying his pepper spray into Warren’s eye, which can be seen at minute 2:32 in the video.
Warren was arrested for threatening an executive officer. After two weeks in jail, Warren was released, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Andrea Lindsay.
A jury trial is scheduled for March 6. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
Adachi called Chu's response to Warren the second case of excessive police force this year. In January, a private citizen released footage of an officer trying to dump a paralyzed man from his wheelchair.
NBC Bay Area's Christie Smith and Bay City News Service contributed to this report.