Officer Joel Petty, who appeared as a prosecution witness, told the court that he spotted a man, later identified as 31-year-old Samuel Ramos Flores, walking west on Hawthorne Road in only his socks and underwear just after midnight Feb. 2.
On Wednesday, Flores was wearing an orange jail shirt and pants during the preliminary hearing, because he is being held without bail at San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp.
He is charged with battery on a peace officer, battery on emergency personnel, attempting to remove a peace officer’s firearm and resisting an officer.
The preliminary hearing was conducted to determine if there was enough evidence to move forward with the charges.
Petty, who is a 14-year police veteran, testified that he saw Flores in the headlights of his police cruiser and tried to get his attention.
“I put my passenger window down when I was seven to eight feet away, and I said, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’” Petty said.
Flores allegedly ignored two such calls by Petty, who testified that by the third attempt to get Flores’ attention, he parked his cruiser and “ran up” to Flores from behind.
“I wanted to physically detain him,” the officer said.
Petty said he used his left hand to grab Flores by the shoulder and his right hand to take hold of the man’s arm.
That caused Flores to spin around, and both men fell to the ground — Flores face down with Petty on his back, Petty said.
“I told him to relax,” he said.
However, Flores allegedly struggled and began pushing upward “in a push-up position,” Petty said, and Flores was able to roll the officer off him.
Petty said that he then used a “control hold” — which involves twisting the arm in an effort to control a person — and Flores’ arm made a “snapping sound, and he made a noise.”
The men were now facing each other, said Petty, who also said Flores grabbed his gun with his right hand, and then with his left hand.
“I told him, ‘Let go of my gun, get off my gun,’” he said.
Petty testified that he heard “snapping and clicking sounds” — noises that he thought were his gun coming out of its holster — and “punched him in the face with my right hand.”
“Each time I did that, I attempted to get his hands off of my gun,” he said. “I hit him the last time close enough to where it almost knocked him out and I was able to get his hands off of my gun and bring them up to his chest.”
The struggle lasted about three minutes until two other officers arrived and helped Petty put handcuffs on Flores.
Petty told the court that Flores never swung at him or tried to punch him.
“The whole time I was with him, his hands were on my handgun,” the officer said.
Deputy District Attorney Ron Indran pointed out that Petty wears his gun on his right hip and that Flores reached across his body with his right hand to grab the gun.
That action shows Flores’ intent was to take the officer’s gun, he said.
During cross examination, Flores’ attorney, Frank Carson, argued that his client wasn’t obligated to respond to Petty’s questions, because he was not breaking the law. Carson also said that Flores was unaware who was speaking to him, because Petty approached him from behind without using police lights and didn’t identify himself as a police officer until he got out of his cruiser.
The defense attorney acknowledged that Flores’ wardrobe on that night “was bizarre” but argued that he “was minding his own business” and that Petty had “formed the intent to stop him and it sounds like no matter what.”
Carson asserted that Petty was prepared to confront Flores — who has no criminal record — after his client failed to respond to the officer’s questions.
“Now the officer has determined that his will will be obeyed,” Carson said, adding that “the officer is the one who initiated all the actions.”
Carson told the court that Flores has a history of mental health issues and that his state of mind played a role in his actions that night.
He said that Flores reacted “instinctually”
when the officer grabbed him from behind, but that his actions during the struggle were those of a “desperately ill and desperate man.”
Flores’ failure to react to the pain of his arm being twisted by Petty, and other actions, “are indications of someone who is not in the right mind,” Carson said.
Indran said Petty was required as a police officer to check on Flores for the safety of the public and the man’s own health because of the circumstances.
The defendant’s mother wanted to speak on her son’s behalf about his history of mental illness and how it affected his decision-making that night, but Judge Ron A. Northup denied the request. He did accept her written statement.
Flores didn’t testify during the hearing.
Northup found there was enough evidence in the case and set the next hearing for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 8 in Department 35 of San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton.
After the hearing, Carina Ayala, a family friend of Flores, spoke on behalf of the 11 people who showed support by attending the hearing.
She said that it was “unfortunate” that Flores’ mother could not speak and that Flores “hears voices” and has a history of being committed to mental hospitals for schizophrenia and depression.
“Unfortunately, with mental health it’s not always easy,” she said. “The attorney did a good job, it’s just too bad that his mother couldn’t tell the judge what’s wrong with her son.”
• Contact Joel Danoy at 830-4229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.