The Contra Costa District Attorney’s office dropped felony charges against three Richmond men accused of interfering in a police investigation or resisting arrest, sparking criticism by the police union, days after officer body camera footage of the arrests was widely publicized.
The defendants, Dejon Brown, his brother Dareron Brown, and a third man, Johnathan Spragan, were charged with single counts of felony resisting an executive officer. Prosecutors dropped the charges “in the interest of justice” last week, a decision that DA Diana Becton said was made after reviewing body camera footage of the arrests and consulting with senior attorneys in the office.
“Our decision was made after a careful and thorough review of submitted evidence, including body worn camera video and police reports,” Becton said. “The complete breadth of evidence revealed that we could not in good faith proceed with the criminal prosecution against these men.”
Within a day of the District Attorney’s decision, the head of the Richmond police union blasted the move as “clearly political” and said the officers involved have an “excellent service record.”
The charges against the three men stemmed from the same incident, a domino effect of arrests that started when Dejon Brown chastised Richmond officers for pulling over a car and conducting a marijuana search. When Brown told Ofc. Ahmed Khalfan, “I’ll beat yo a–,” Khalfan replied, “You’ll what,” and rushed to Brown. A struggle ensued as Khalfan attempted to arrest Brown, the video shows.
During the arrest, Dareron Brown shoved Khaflan. The officer chased him around the corner and through a gate, shocking him with a Taser. Spragan was arrested several minutes later, while watching the Brown brothers being booked. Dareron Brown — who has a heart condition — was receiving medical care at the scene.
Spragan argued with several officers, then left. He returned to observe the arrest in silence, then left again after a friend pulled him away. An officer can be heard on video saying, “that dude needs to go to jail” and suggesting “for a face mask violation,” although two officers can be seen on video without face masks. Spragan was arrested when he returned to the scene a third time.
Dejon Brown, Dareron Brown, and Spragan have filed federal lawsuits accusing Richmond police of engaging in a “systemic, deliberate, policy and practice to allow officer excesses, officer civil rights violations, excessive use of force, escalation of situations to be perpetrated against residents of the City of Richmond.”
Days before the charges were dropped, the video appeared in numerous publications, including the national celebrity news outlet TMZ.
“It was the right thing to do, definitely, and we appreciate the District Attorney took a close look at case and determined it was in the interest of justice to dismiss it,” said Oksana Tsykova, an attorney who represented Dareron Brown. “I think they realized there was a discrepancy between video and police report they couldn’t in good conscience proceed and they made the right decision.”
But Ben Therriault, president of the Richmond police officers association, accused the District Attorney of caving to political pressure.
“We are aware of several individuals and nonprofit groups who behind the scene put pressure on the District Attorney to drop these charges,” Therriault said. “Our officer sustained injuries and has an excellent service record. Law enforcement and residents should take note that threatening to beat a peace officer in Contra Costa County is normative and supported behavior. This is the new definition of ‘interest of justice.’”
Becton, when told of Therriault’s remarks, said she was disheartened by the “baseless” comment.
“The allegation that any individual or group somehow pressured or influenced the District Attorney’s decision is completely false and misleading,” she said, later adding: “Based upon the totality of the evidence, we concluded we couldn’t legally proceed with the case. I was never contacted by any individual or group attempting to influence my decision about this case.”
The three were charged with a violation of penal code 69, Tsykova said. The law says that any person who, “by means of any threat or violence, to deter or prevent an executive officer from performing any duty imposed upon the officer by law, or who knowingly resists, by the use of force or violence, the officer, in the performance of his or her duty” is guilty of a crime punishable by up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
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