This story originally appeared in Tuesday’s print edition of the Daily Post. Only a fraction of the stories the Post prints wind up on this website. To get all of the local news, pick up the Post every morning at 1,000 Mid-Peninsula locations.
BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
Gustavo Alvarez, who received a $572,500 settlement from the city of Palo Alto over a videotaped police beating, has been arrested for burglary.
Alvarez, 38, appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Friday on three counts of second-degree burglary.
He is accused of committing three burglaries of the Valero gas station at 3972 El Camino Real, which is next to his home at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.
The new charges were filed against him on Oct. 17.
Two weeks later, his lawyers were in federal court to finalize a settlement in a lawsuit Alvarez filed over a Feb. 17, 2018, beating he received from Palo Alto police Sgt. Wayne Benitez that was captured on a home video surveillance camera. Alvarez was beaten after police went to his home in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto to arrest him for DUI, though the drunken driving charge was later dropped.
After receiving court approval, the settlement went to the Palo Alto City Council, which approved it on Nov. 18.
In addition to the money, the settlement requires Benitez to sign an apology saying that he “regrettably” lost his composure and he hopes the settlement allows Alvarez to move forward with his life. The letter will be signed by Benitez. Alvarez will be allowed to release it to the public.
The police department has also agreed to conduct LGBTQ sensitivity training.
‘Continuing criminal behavior’
A statement issued by the city after the settlement was approved suggested that officials were aware of Alvarez’s latest arrest. It said that the city and police “have deep concerns about Mr. Alvarez’s continuing criminal behavior.” But the statement didn’t mention the burglary arrest.
In the past 20 years, he was the subject of seven felony and 11 misdemeanor complaints in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Perhaps Alvarez’s most infamous arrest came in July 2012 when officers caught him rappelling into the now-defunct JJ&F Market through a broken skylight. But most of his cases involved drugs.
The Valero gas station burglaries happened in September and October, prosecutors said in a charging document filed in court.
Brandon Correia, the gas station owner, was told by an employee on Sept. 9 that money was missing from the station till. Correia also noticed that money had been taken from a change jar in the back room of the station.
Caught on video
Correia looked at the store’s surveillance footage and saw that Alvarez had snuck into the station through a service door the night before, according to the charging document. Alvarez apparently hid while the last employee on duty locked up for the evening. Alvarez then allegedly took the money and left through a side door, prosecutors said.
Correia recognized Alvarez because he worked at the station for two weeks as a weekend cashier last year, according to the charging document. On Oct. 6 at 2:39 a.m., Correia got a call from his alarm company that said the alarm on the station’s back door had been set off. He logged onto his surveillance footage and saw a man in a sweatshirt and scarf stealing from the station’s storeroom.
About $500 worth of cigarette cartons were missing.
Correia told police he was sure the man was Alvarez. The police report said that the suspect in the video matched Alvarez’s DMV photo.
On Oct. 12 at 11:38 a.m., Alvarez was allegedly caught on camera taking $300 from the station register.
No one was watching the register because the employee on duty, Jennifer Havens, was helping a customer put air into his tires. Havens recognized Alvarez in the security footage because they are neighbors, according to the charging document.
Alvarez is being represented by Cody Salfen of San Jose for the burglary case. Salfen also represented Alvarez during the lawsuit.
Salfen did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.