Police Officer Hits Suspect Almost 3 Dozen Times
(CA) – Officer Eric Smith, Jr. has been fired for an incident that happened in April. According to Officer Smith, he saw a vehicle speeding and hitting other cars. He suspected the driver of being DUI, and attempted to stop him. The driver didn’t stop immediately. When he did, he tried to run away causing a short foot chase. The driver, Saul Mendoza, then obviously changes his mind and stopped. At this point he offers no further resistance, and it is obvious that he does not have anything in his hands.
Officer Smith tases Mendoza causing Mendoza to fall to the ground. Smith then runs up to him and intentionally kicks Mendoza in the head. He kicks Mendoza’s head a second time, but that one may have been accidental. It occurs as Smith is moving in to begin striking Mendoza with the taser. Smith strikes Mendoza on the head, with the taser, 35 times.
Supervisor Initiates Excessive Force Investigation
The use of force video was reviewed eleven days after the assault. Officer Smith told his supervisor that the suspect was resisting arrest. The video showed that was not the case and that Mendoza had only tried to protect his head. The supervisor was so disturbed by the use of force that the incident was immediately turned over for investigation. Officer Eric Smith was placed on administrative leave.
When Smith was fired, Police Chief French addressed the media and stated, “His behavior deviated from our training and will not be tolerated.” She also apologized to the victim and the community. (See video below).
Press Release by Contra Costa District Attorney
On August 3, 2022, the district attorney issued a press release that included the following statement:
28-year-old Eric Smith, Jr. faces one count of felony assault with a deadly weapon for an incident that occurred while Officer Smith was on duty. Eric Smith Jr. is further charged with enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury and for the use of a deadly and dangerous weapon.
Defense Attorney Makes Unusual Statement
Not a single article or video on the assault mentioned Mendoza having a gun. The video shows that Mendoza’s hands are empty prior to being assaulted by Officer Smith. Yet Smith’s attorney, Harry S. Stern, released a statement that included the following sentences, after a glowing description of Smith.
“The suspect was likely armed with one pistol which he discarded. It was entirely reasonable for young Ofc. Smith to believe he might have another.”
It’s a defense attorney’s job to get their client off or get the lowest possible sentence. I understand that. But Stern gives a made up scenario, saying something was “likely” though no one else said that was the case. From there, he goes straight to it being a fact by saying Mendoza discarded the gun. So where’s the gun? Mendoza either had one or he didn’t. Then Stern uses the made up story as justification for the assault claiming a possible second gun.
Are there no limits to what attorneys are allowed to say?
Eric Smith, Jr.
Eric Smith was fired. He has been charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon. There are also two enhancements to the charge. “Enhancement 1 – Special Allegation – Great Bodily Harm PC12022.7(a). Enhancement 2 – Special Allegation – Use of Deadly Weapon PC12022(b)(1).”
An arraignment for this case will be scheduled by the Superior Court of California, County of Contra Costa. Smith was released from jail after apparently meeting bail. His arraignment is set for Wednesday, August 31 at 1:30 p.m. in Martinez.