San Leandro, CA – In a blatant abuse of authority, San Leandro police officers were caught on body cam video choking an innocent man unconscious and arresting him under false pretenses. Although the suspect was charged with resisting arrest, driving under the influence, and multiple weapons violations, the district attorney later dismissed all of the charges against him.
In January 2015, San Leandro Police Officers Michael Olivera and Alexander Ying approached 51-year-old Douglas Babbitt, who was sitting in his vehicle while speaking to a friend on his cell phone. Spotting a beer bottle in the 7-Eleven parking lot, Olivera began interrogating Babbitt despite the fact that the officer had no probable cause to believe that the beer belonged to Babbitt.
“Did I say it was your beer?” Olivera asked.
“Yeah, you asked me if it was my beer,” Babbitt responded.
“Alright,” Olivera offered.
“So how am I gonna put a beer way over there when I’m sitting over here?” Babbitt asked.
“Well, who does it belong to?” Olivera retorted.
“Why don’t you ask the person who put it there?” Babbitt retaliated. “Because I don’t know.”
“Well, do you know who put it there?” Olivera tried again.
“No,” Babbitt calmly answered. “Anything else you want to ask me?”
“No,” Olivera lied, “But why you so aggravated?”
“’Cause you come asking about a beer that wasn’t mine,” Babbitt replied.
Although Babbitt handed over his driver’s license and offered to take a breathalyzer, Olivera instead suddenly grabbed Babbitt’s arm and handcuffed his wrist before aggressively twisting his arm.
“I’m not gonna resist,” Babbitt could be heard on police body cam video. “Why are you searching?”
An unidentified officer smashed Babbitt’s passenger window for no apparent reason while Olivera continued twisting his handcuffed arm. As Babbitt peacefully exited the vehicle, several officers tackled him to the ground while incessantly repeating, “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!”
According to Olivera’s body cam video, Babbitt did not appear to resist and actually lost consciousness as one of the officers applied a carotid restraint, or chokehold, used to prevent blood from passing through the carotid artery. After twitching and convulsing for a few moments, Babbitt finally regained consciousness with several stupefied cops standing over his body.
“You just passed me out,” Babbitt told the overzealous cops.
“Yeah, you’re alright,” an officer without any medical knowledge responded.
“I have to sit up,” Babbitt pleaded. “I can barely breathe.”
After transporting Babbitt to the hospital, police found a knife and four firearms inside his vehicle. Accused by officers of smelling like alcohol with bloodshot eyes, Babbitt was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, driving under the influence of alcohol, and multiple weapons violations. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office later dismissed the charges after watching the video and discovering that a toxicology report found Babbitt did not have any alcohol in his system that night.
According to Babbitt, the former Army reservist has repeatedly been followed and questioned by San Leandro police, but this was his first arrest. In July 2015, Babbitt filed a lawsuit accusing the officers of violating his constitutional rights and using excessive force, while unlawfully arresting and falsely imprisoning him.