Through a California Public Records Act request, the Post has obtained four videos from the Palo Alto Police Department of the July 10, 2019 incident at Happy Donuts in which police Agent Tom DeStefano violently arrested Julio Arevalo.
- Agent Thomas DeStefano’s body-cam video and Happy Donut’s surveillance video.
- Body-cam from Sgt. DuJuan Green, the supervisor at the scene, when he first arrives
- More body-cam video from Green including an interview of a witness
- Additional body-cam video from Green including interview of Arevalo
In addition, here’s the Police Department’s “Use of Force” report on the incident.
BY ELAINE GOODMAN
Daily Post Correspondent
A Palo Alto police officer’s use of force against a suspect who was flung face-down onto the pavement and hospitalized for his injuries was “reasonable” and within department policy, police supervisors concluded in documents released late Friday.
But police officials said the incident on July 10, 2019, outside of Happy Donuts required further investigation because of “discrepancies” between reports on the case and video evidence.
The man injured in the incident, Julio Arevalo, filed a $3.8 million claim against the city in November alleging that he was “violently attacked” by police Agent Thomas DeStefano. Arevalo also alleged he was falsely arrested and that DeStefano included false information in his police report on the incident.
Lt. Ben Becchetti noted discrepancies in the case in a Dec. 11 memo to Capt. Andrew Binder.
“Due to some discrepancies between the reports and the videos reviewed, I believe further investigation should be conducted regarding this incident to account for any relevant information not related to the use of force,” Becchetti said.
The memo didn’t further describe the discrepancies.
Becchetti, Binder, Lt. James Reifschneider and Chief Robert Jonsen signed a Supervisor’s Use of Force report for the case, each checking a box to say further inquiry was required.
The report on Use of Force was part of a package of documents that Palo Alto released late Friday following the Post’s request in January for DeStefano’s body camera footage from the incident involving Arevalo.
As the Post reported Saturday, the city on Friday released videos of the incident, including body cam footage from DeStefano and Sgt. DuJuan Green, who interviewed Arevalo at the scene about the use of force. In addition, the city provided video from a Happy Donuts security camera.
According to the police reports, the incident unfolded on July 10 around 2:24 a.m. outside the doughnut shop at 3916 El Camino Real.
Drug deal or bike sale?
DeStefano said in a written report that he spotted Arevalo, whom he knew from previous contacts and arrests, in the Happy Donuts parking lot. He said that Arevalo walked up to another man, quickly touched his hand, and then walked away. The second man walked away with two women and then got into a car and drove away, the report said.
DeStefano said it looked like a drug deal might have occurred. He said he also knew that Arevalo was on probation with a condition for search and seizure. When he approached Arevalo, the man was sweating heavily and seemed to be under the influence of drugs, the officer said.
A review of Happy Donuts surveillance video reveals a potentially different motive for the gathering in the parking lot, according to a written report from Green, the sergeant who reviewed the use of force. Green said Arevalo appeared to be using a flashlight to show his bicycle to another man and two women. Green said it looked like Arevalo might be trying to sell them the bike.
But Green said it was “completely understandable” why DeStefano, who viewed the incident from the street, thought it looked like a drug deal.
Video released by the city on Friday begins with DeStefano approaching Arevalo on foot, and the alleged interaction among Arevalo and the other three people in the parking lot is not seen.
As DeStefano walks up, Arevalo turns and starts walking away, video of the incident shows. DeStefano tells the man that he’s on probation and is being detained.
‘Pain compliance’ techniques
A struggle ensues between the two men, and Arevalo is pushed up against a railing outside the doughnut shop, the video shows. Arevalo cries out, “Ow, my back, my arm!”
Green said in his report that it looked like DeStefano was using “pain compliance” techniques to get Arevalo to let go of the railing so that he could be handcuffed. DeStefano finally gets Arevalo off the railing, then shoves him to the ground, where he appears to hit the pavement face first.
Other officers arrived on the scene, and one helped search Arevalo. The officer asked Arevalo if he had a pipe, and he said he did, according to DeStefano’s report. But the search of Arevalo didn’t turn up any contraband, DeStefano said.
DeStefano said he searched Arevalo’s backpack and found a small bag of marijuana, which he did not seize.
According to police, Arevalo tested positive for amphetamine use.
The case was forwarded to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for a review of potential charges including resisting arrest, being under the influence of narcotics and battery on an officer. No charges were filed.
Arevalo’s injuries included bruises and scrapes to his face, along with abrasions to his left knee and right hand, wrist and forearm, police reports said.
He was treated at the scene by paramedics and later, after his face started swelling, officers drove him to the hospital. There, he was found to have a fractured orbital socket, which refers to the bones surrounding the eye, according to police reports. He was admitted for observation, police said.
Arevalo said he was injured earlier
When interviewed at the scene by Green, Arevalo said his nose was bloody because someone had punched him earlier that night, the sergeant said in his report. Green said he couldn’t find any evidence of the earlier attack.
The police reports blocked out the name of the suspect in the case, but in one instance left in the name “Arevalo.” The documents were provided in response to the Post’s request for records in an incident involving Arevalo.