A civil rights complaint filed by a 23-year-old man against the San Francisco Police Department claims he was beaten by officers simply for being black.
Travis Hall says three plainclothes officers assaulted him. Wednesday, he, his lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union went public with their accusations.
“That night, the officers automatically assumed I was doing something wrong because I’m black,” Hall said.
The San Francisco man described an encounter he says he had with three undercover officers in April. “Not all police do terrible things,” he said, “but the ones who assaulted me, unfortunately, cast an ugly shadow on the rest of SFPD.”
The ACLU is now helping Hall file a federal civil rights complaint against the police department, the officers, the city, and the county, claiming the recent college graduate was unlawfully detained, beaten and arrested as he was getting dropped off of South of Market.
According to the ACLU, the officers began to aggressively question the four about their activities that evening and despite repeated inquiries as to why they were being detained, officers did not respond.
“The officers did not provide justification for their initial approach, even after being repeatedly asked,” said ACLU attorney Nayna Gupta, who is assigned to the case.
According to the ACLU, Hall became scared during the ordeal and attempted to call his mother, who is white and whose presence he believed would cause the officers to behave more respectfully and help them understand that he lives there. It was then that Talkoff allegedly seized Hall from the car and threw him to the ground, causing him to hit his head on the concrete curb, according to the ACLU.
Officers allegedly slammed Hall on the ground with excessive force multiple times. Officers punched Hall, twisted his arm and threatened to break his arm, in addition to other threats, ACLU officials said.
Hall was arrested and transported to the Mission Police Station, where he was booked on suspicion of resisting arrest. His case was dropped by prosecutors shortly after the incident, according to the ACLU. Hall was released from custody the following morning.
Hall suffered a concussion and numerous cuts and bruises to his head, neck, face, and body, and suffered headaches for weeks. According to the ACLU, Hall's injuries almost jeopardized his academic career and graduation from Fordham University, causing him severe emotional distress and anxiety.
“We hope the department and the city will take it seriously by adequately compensating Travis, but also taking action to address the problem with racially biased policing,” Gupta said.
The police department referred requests for comment to the city attorney. Matt Dorsey from the city attorney’s office said they simply haven’t had enough time to review the complaint and comment at this point.
"Even San Francisco, which is supposedly an educated and progressive city, is just as vulnerable as other communities," Hall's mother Leigh Stackpole said. "Police brutality should not be a rite of passage for young black men."
"What if they had slammed his head on the ground one more time or pulled a gun?" Stackpole said. "I would be one of those mothers protesting with only a photo of him rather than with him standing here next to me."