District Attorney Chesa Boudin enraged police brass and the department’s union this week when he decided to drop charges against a suspected burglar accused of stabbing an officer during an arrest last February in the Castro.
But new photos and an internal police report from the case obtained by The Standard show that the encounter left the officer with minor cuts to his pinky finger and knee, while the suspect suffered a fractured left cheek bone and cuts and bruises to his head after being punched “15 to 20 times.”
The case serves as the latest litmus test for a district attorney facing a recall election this June. Police critics have accused the officers of using excessive force, while opponents of the progressive prosecutor view the decision to drop charges as another example of Boudin putting police and the public in danger.
Alexandra Pray, a deputy public defender representing the suspect, 42-year-old Sergio Lugo, said that a comparison of photos of her client’s injuries and the officer’s injuries show that Lugo was the actual victim.
“If we were to look at those photos and not know the role of each of the portrayed people in them, I think anyone would look at them and assume that Mr. Lugo was the victim of a horrific assault,” Pray said.
The case gained national attention this week when Police Chief Bill Scott publicly criticized Boudin for dropping the charges, just two days after Police Officers Association President Tony Montoya sent a note to the rank-and-file encouraging them to publicly rally against Boudin’s decision.
Chief Scott said the district attorney’s decision to toss the case “sends a dangerous message that emboldens criminals,” while Montoya said the decision was evidence that “criminals come first” for Boudin.
But Pray called the chief’s statement “wildly misleading.”
“I don’t know which criminals he thinks are going to be emboldened by this,” Pray said. “Mr. Lugo actually was not committing any crime at the time that he was detained.”
Up until Tuesday, Lugo was awaiting trial on five felony charges, including assault on an officer, after being arrested during a burglary surveillance operation on Feb. 17, 2021. An internal police report of the incident says Lugo and another suspect appeared to be casing the area near 21st and Castro streets for a burglary. When plainclothes officers began to close in on Lugo, a pursuit ensued and he was eventually taken to the ground.
One of the officers—Sgt. Alexander Lentz—accused Lugo of trying to stab him in the chest with an X-Acto knife during a struggle, leading to a cut on the sergeant’s hand, according to the report. Lentz then used his knee to strike the suspect in the head while another officer, Lt. Kevin Healy, assisted in restraining Lugo.
Lugo allegedly continued to try and stab Lentz, leading Officer Griffin Glennon to join in the fray, according to the report. Glennon said he “feared for the life and safety” of his fellow officers and himself, so he began “striking Lugo’s face swiftly and aggressively.”
Officers found Lugo, who has a prior conviction for burglary from 2013, in possession of a small amount of meth and a burglary tool.
Rachel Marshall, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors dropped the charges after “reviewing statements, surveillance footage and inconsistencies in police officer statements.” No body camera footage of the incident exists. Officers are not always required to wear body cameras while in plainclothes.
However, a Nest camera from a residence near the scene of the arrest captured audio of the incident. While the audio has not been released, Pray said the sounds of punching can be heard, as well as Lentz saying he was stabbed.
Pray said she did not dispute Lentz was injured in the hand by the knife, but she planned to argue that the wound was caused by an accident.
“I think it was a chaotic melee and I think he got cut,” she said.
Pray said she has filed a complaint with the Department of Police Accountability, the city’s police watchdog agency, on behalf of her client.
David Sjostedt contributed to this report. He can be reached at [email protected]