University officials are continuing to investigate claims that campus police improperly handled the arrest of a Davis teen on March 3 that left him bloodied.
The investigation is being overseen by the Office of Compliance and Policy rather than internally by UC Davis police at the request of Police Chief Matthew Carmichael, university spokesman Andy Fell said.
The complaint was filed by a resident of the Domes housing community who witnessed the arrest of Cristian Flores, who turned 19 in June, and the incident has attracted the wider attention of students and the city of Davis Human Relations Commission.
Flores and a classmate were walking together on the overpass above Highway 113 from the Sacramento City College Davis Center toward the Domes when they decided to share a Swisher Sweet, a brand of tobacco cigar, Flores said in an interview.
“We were just walking and talking,” recalled Flores, a graduate of King High School in Davis.
A UCD police officer was talking to a bicyclist nearby when he told them smoking was prohibited on campus. He asked them to extinguish the cigar, which they did and apologized, Flores said. The two continued walking, until the officer caught up with them and asked them for personal information.
His classmate started cooperating but Flores said, “With all due respect, Officer, I don’t have to tell you anything,” he recalled. The officer said he smelled marijuana, so Flores showed him the Swisher Sweet pack. When the officer asked him to sit down and provide his personal information, Flores refused.
“I don’t have to tell you anything. What’s your probable cause?” Flores recalled asking.
The incident escalated once other officers, including Officer S.R. Terry, arrived on the scene and grabbed Flores’ hands, slammed him on the ground, and put a knee on his neck, he said. Flores’ head was bleeding, witness accounts and video from the incident show. He said he was given a neck brace and was taken to the hospital.
His classmate was detained but not arrested.
The incident on the doorstep of the Domes attracted the attention of residents and passers-by.
Jeffrey Mendelman, a second-year UC Davis law student and Domes resident, took video with his phone and filed the university complaint.
Mendelman was sitting down for dinner at the Domes around 7 p.m. when the arrest took place.
“I just heard some sort of abnormal sound,” he recalled in a phone interview. “I went over to see what was going on.”
At that point, Flores was already in a police car. His classmate was yelling in Arabic, which prompted Terry to say he was screaming “jihad,” said Mendelman, who also filed a hate crime complaint with Student Judicial Affairs.
Mendelman said police interrogated Flores without reading him his Miranda rights. He added that he believed there wasn’t enough “suspicion to lead to a detention and then an arrest.”
“You don’t want to be the next person walking down the street and detained for no reason and beaten down,” Mendelman said. “I think that’s where the righteous anger comes from.”
Another witness wrote a letter to the editor published in The California Aggie titled “An Incident of Hate,” which described “blood on the sidewalk from the police beating (Flores) to submission.”
After searching Flores, police found marijuana, Flores admitted. He was booked at Yolo County Jail and charged with possession of marijuana and resisting officers, both misdemeanors. But he maintained that he had been smoking a Swisher Sweet and not marijuana when police confronted him.
“I was smoking the Swisher, but then they found weed,” he said. “It’s a very suspicious scenario, and I know that. It was my bad, obviously, for having it on me.”
Mendelman said police had no right to detain Flores in the first place.
“It was still a violation of his rights in the first instance, regardless of what they turned up,” he said.
The university’s investigation does not have a timeline, Fell said. If the complaint is upheld, police will be notified and can decide whether to discipline officers. The disciplining of officers is not public record, he said.
The Human Relations Commission discussed the incident in April and May and called for a statement from Chancellor Linda Katehi, a full investigation and greater awareness.
Mendelman said it has been hard to raise awareness over summer, when most students are out of town.
“Things have sort of halted for the summer, like anything else,” he said.
Flores said he hopes his experience will prevent similar incidents in the future.
“What happened was super-unnecessary and got way out of hand,” he said.