Michael Lewelling is behind bars, after the San Francisco sheriff’s deputy was caught on tape roughing up a disabled hospital patient. He then tried to claim that the man had assaulted him.
The attack took place on November 4 at San Francisco General Hospital. Lewelling, who has been with the department for five years, was assigned to a patrol unit at the hospital when he filed a report that a man attacked him with a wooden cane. The man was arrested and charged with a number of felony and misdemeanor charges, and thrown in jail.
But prosecutors found video evidence that showed a much different story. In the video, Michael Lewelling was reportedly seen waking the man, who was sleeping in a chair in the emergency room at close to 5 a.m. waiting for a doctor’s appointment. The victim tried to get up and walk away, but Lewelling then grabbed the man by the collar and slammed him back into his seat, knocking the man’s cane away, the district attorney’s office said.
Charges against the victim were dropped the day after the incident. The Sheriff’s Department then started its own investigation, and after six weeks, issued a warrant for Lewelling’s arrest.
“The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department places paramount value in maintaining the public trust bestowed upon peace officers,” the department said in a statement. “To that end, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department is committed to holding its employees accountable for their conduct.”
The district attorney also decried the incident.
“The fact that a sheriff’s deputy allegedly battered a patient at San Francisco General Hospital is unnerving,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “What’s worse is that he’s also alleged to have perjured himself on a police report, unforgivable conduct that led to the arrest of the innocent victim.”
The incident comes amid a sharpened focus on police brutality. In the past few months, the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice at the hands of police officers have led to widespread protests and calls for more police accountability. It has also led President Obama to call for police departments to require officers to wear body cameras to record their interactions.
Michael Lewelling was charged with misdemeanor battery and three felonies — perjury, filing a false police report, filing a false instrument, and assault under the color of authority. He has also been suspended without pay.