A San Diego Police officer punched by a man attempting to cross Logan Avenue last week started the confrontation by clubbing the man with a nightstick.
Video shared with The Southwestern College Sun by human rights organization IRATE Productions shows an unidentified SDPD officer arguing with Frederick Jefferson, 39, who was attempting to jaywalk across Logan Avenue. Jefferson is seen backing away from the officer who moved toward Jefferson and clubbed him in the head area. Jefferson countered with a single punch that landed squarely on the left side of the officer’s face. Jefferson is African-American, the officer is white.
Jefferson returned to the other side of the street where other police surrounded him.
Witness Alexis Del Castillo said officers used batons to hit Jefferson’s legs and knock him to the sidewalk. Del Castillo began filming the incident on his phone after Jefferson was on the ground. Del Castillo said officers shocked Jefferson with a taser and pepper sprayed him while six officers piled on to pin him to the ground.
“The cops were trying to hide it,” Del Castillo said. “They kept standing in front of the camera as I tried to film.”
The IRATE Productions video was shot facing south. It shows a scrum of officers on a supine Jefferson. One officer grabbed his head and turned his face toward another, who hit Jefferson point blank with a full dose of pepper spray. Del Castillo’s video, shot facing north, shows a female officer charging a taser weapon, then discharging it directly into Jefferson’s back.
Del Castillo can be heard in the video telling the officers to not block the camera’s view of Jefferson.
Jefferson is facing nine years in prison on four felony charges, including assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest. The officer, as of deadline, has not been charged.
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman appeared on local television newscasts and said the injured officer was recovering from his injuries and condemned Jefferson for punching him. Zimmerman, however, did not mention that the officer attacked Jefferson first. Video shown on KUSI and KNBC that evening showed the tussle on the ground, but not the clubbing or punch. It is unclear whether Zimmerman had seen the clubbing video or was aware that the officer had struck first.
Zimmerman did not return three phone calls seeking comment.
Zimmerman also indicated that she thought Jefferson was part of the white supremacist gathering or peace rally at nearby Chicano Park earlier that morning. She said on KUSI and KNBC that she did not know which side Jefferson was on. Leaders of the Patriots Picnic and the Chicano Park rally leaders both said Jefferson was not part of their groups.
Witnesses said it was unlikely that Jefferson was involved with the Chicano Park protest or rally at all and was likely just transiting the area as the white supremacists were leaving. There were two impenetrable police barricades between the protest site and the spot on Logan Avenue where the officer and Jefferson hit each other. Jefferson was about 50 yards north of a barrier that closed Cesar Chavez Parkway, 120 yards north of a barrier on the edge of Chicano Park, and 210 yards from the Chicano Park rally in the heart of the park.
Jefferson’s Public Defender Jimmy Rodriguez was not available for comment before deadline.
Both videos show numerous officers piled atop Jefferson as he is shocked with the taser and pepper sprayed in a large puddle of blood. It is unclear whose blood was on the pavement. Witnesses said Jefferson was bleeding from the head. The officer was bleeding from the nose and a cut above the eye.
Officers involved in the beating and arrest of Jefferson were working the “Patriot Picnic” staged by white supremacists on the portion of Chicano Park east of Logan Avenue. About 60 white nationalists and their supporters threatened to enter Chicano Park to destroy the murals the park is famous for. About 1,000 people rallied on the west portion of the park, across Logan Avenue from the protesters. SDPD formed a human barricade down the center of Logan Avenue to separate the groups. Two arrests and one detainment were made on the white supremacist side of the street. No one from the pro-Chicano Park rally were arrested.
After about 45 minutes, the white extremists started to file out of the park behind fenced basketball courts on the north side of the park. SDPD escorted them away as rally participants celebrated with song and prayers. Minutes later, about 210 yards to the north, the officer and Jefferson had their encounter. Spokespersons from both sides of the protest have said Jefferson had no affiliation to the event and could not have crossed the police barriers.
Jefferson’s next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20. His bail is set at $250,000. Jefferson’s encounter with SDPD can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gxcruExWQU&t=2s.
Police Attack in Logan Heights: The Sequence of Events
• Before 9 a.m. SDPD close Cesar Chavez Parkway, Logan Avenue and ramps on and off I-5. Police erected barriers down the middle of Chavez Parkway with a line of motorcycles. A secondary barrier at the foot of an off ramp staffed with officers prevented anyone from leaving the protest area without a police escort.
• Beginning around 9 a.m. a crowd of about 1,000 begins to gather for a peaceful rally opposing white supremacy and the Patriots Picnic, organized by white supremacist Roger Ogden.
• About 10:10 a.m. a collection of about 60 loosely affiliated white supremacists begin to assemble in a corner of Chicano Park east of Logan Avenue. Some shouting and gesturing between the groups separated by police, but no violence.
• About 11:45 a.m. the Patriots Picnic participants begin to file out of Chicano Park around a fenced basketball court. They are escorted by SDPD. Four Native American musicians serenade them in a prayer for peace. Most peace rally participants gather at the Aztec pyramid in the heart of Chicano Park for speakers, music and prayer. Rally participants still not allowed to exit Chicano Park on its north end.
• Shortly after noon. Frederick Jefferson exits the commercial district north of the intersection of Logan Avenue and Cesar Chavez Parkway, which is still closed. He jaywalks across Logan Avenue where he is met by two SDPD officers. A video captures an officer and Jefferson engaged in a verbal altercation, then shows Jefferson backing away from the officers. One of the officers pursues Jefferson and clubs him in the head area full force with a nightstick. Jefferson counters with a forceful punch to the officer’s face, breaking his nose and some facial bones.
• Jefferson returns to the other side of Logan Avenue and is clubbed in the legs by other SDPD officers until he falls to the ground.
• Multiple videos show police piling on Jefferson, beating him and wrestling with him in a large pool of blood.
• Jefferson is incapacitated and pinned to the ground by five SDPD officers, but a female SDPD officer on the south side of the scrum charges up a Taser weapon. She discharges it into Jefferson’s back.
• Seconds late an officer on the north side of the pile up pepper sprays Jefferson in the face.
• Witnesses said Jefferson appeared to have a head wound, but the video was inconclusive.
• Jefferson is pushed into a squad car and taken away. He is later booked for assaulting a police officer.
• Leaders of the Patriots Picnic group and the Chicano Park peace rally tell journalists and police that Jefferson was not a participant in the protest or rally and was not in Chicano Park.
• SDPD Police Spokesperson Lt. Scott Wahl appears on TV newscasts and said Jefferson hit the officer in an unprovoked attack. He also said Jefferson was not injured.
• SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman appears on evening newscasts and says the officer is badly injured. She does not acknowledge that the officer struck the first blow or that the altercation did not occur in Chicano Park.
• KUSI, KNSD, CBS8, Fox 5 News, Los Angeles Times and San Diego Reader subsequently report incorrectly that Jefferson and the officer had fought in Chicano Park. No media outlet reports that the officer was the aggressor and had clubbed Jefferson first.
• The Sun acquires video showing that the SDPD officer struck Jefferson first. The video also shows Jefferson being pepper sprayed in the face even though he is pinned to the ground by at least five SDPD officers. Another video shot from a different angle shows Jefferson being shocked with a Taser by SDPD.
• Jefferson is in county jail awaiting a Feb. 20 hearing. Prosecutors say he faces nine years in prison for assaulting a police office.