A white police officer who beat an unarmed Black man with a baton as he lay on the ground has been cleared of assault, in the latest case to throw a spotlight on how US police use force.
The city of San Francisco has already paid out $700,000 in a civil settlement to Dacari Spears for the 2019 beating by officer Terrance Stangel.
But a jury cleared Stangel on three counts on Monday, and was unable to reach a verdict on a fourth count in a criminal trial, which the San Francisco Chronicle reported was the first time a local police officer had been charged with using excessive force while on duty.
During a weeks-long trial, jurors had heard how Stangel and his partner had responded to reports of a man assaulting a woman near Fisherman’s Wharf, a busy tourist area in San Francisco.
In the following confrontation, Stangel hit Spiers with his baton eight times, including five times while he was on the ground.
Spiers was never arrested, and never charged with any crime.
In evidence, Stangel insisted the use of force was justified because he was protecting his partner, while Spiers said the officers had not identified themselves and he was never aggressive to them.
Spiers’ attorney said despite the verdict, the trial had been “a step in the right direction.”
“We have a long way to go to make our community safe from unnecessary police violence.”
Stangel’s lawyer, Nicole Pifari, said the case should never have been brought, and had been prosecuted because of the political convictions of a liberal district attorney, the Chronicle reported.
The verdict comes with police treatment of Black suspects increasingly under the spotlight in the US.
Last year Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder and jailed for 22 years over the death of Black man George Floyd during an arrest.
Floyd’s death, which was filmed by a bystander in a video that went viral, sparked months of protests against racial injustice and police brutality.