Officer testifies in gun-grabbing case
by Joel Danoy
Jan 17, 2013 | 4732 views | 24 24 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MANTECA — A Tracy police officer testified in San Joaquin County Superior County on Wednesday, Jan. 16, that he punched a man a “couple of different times” in the face to stop him from taking the officer’s gun out of its holster.

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 jdanoy@tracypress.com.

Comments
(24)
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Phourdub
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February 12, 2013
Did u c the pic of the guy in the paper petty s friends payed him back he looked like Mr peanut
doorsc
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January 20, 2013
So what are you saying? That the Tracy Police is not trained to be kinder to mental health patients?
drumhead
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January 20, 2013
I'm not convinced they are trained on how to pass up a doughnut shop let alone handle mental health patients. Have you seen some of the porkers we have speeding around town?
inquisitive_mind
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January 20, 2013
Just found this in the tracy press from 01/17/2013:

6:39 p.m.: Police went to 21st and Deborah streets after someone reported a naked man in the street. A neighbor told police that he had been standing there for three hours before he took off his clothes. Police noted that he would not respond to officers’ commands, and just stared into the sky. Officers called an ambulance for him.

Thats how this situation shouldve ended, not with Flores receiving that savage attack and being in jail for a year and counting.
pinkwillow
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January 24, 2013
Inquisitive_mindless person,

Well apparently this guy didn't try to grab the officers gun and kill him. That's probably why it turned out different genius!!!

Savage attack? The officer could have killed your mental relative, you should be thanking petty for his restraint. And if your getting facts of law from his attorney you better get another one, cause neither of you have a clue of search and seizure law......
inquisitive_mind
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January 19, 2013
It seems the suspect is mentally ill, he had been stopped the day before by another officer and taken to a mental clinic and described by the officer as 51-50, he also has no criminal record. Officer Petty showed great restraint in not shooting Mr. Flores, but what comes in question is wether Petty had the right to stop this individual. As bizzare as this incident was, Flores hadnt broken any laws when Petty ran up on him from behind and put his hands on Flores. Before that happened, Flores ignored or didnt understand when Petty asked him "What are you doing?" and kept walking down the sidewalk, which isnt a crime because the only questions you have to answer to a cop is your name and were you live. The officer it seems had no legal right to detain or arrest this man, which makes anything that happened afterwards, the officers fault not the suspects because as an american, we have the right to defend ourself against illegal stops and seizures. This seems like a lawsuit in the making.

I know some of you will not agree, but just answer this simple question, What Law or even city ordinance did Flores break?

“Now the officer has determined that his will will be obeyed,”

WILL not LAW
pinkwillow
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January 19, 2013
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES: A detention may be war- ranted if it appeared that the detainee was so men- tally unstable as to constitute a threat to himself or others. This is cut and pasted from a court decision.

You even say he was mentally ill. What if he was never stopped and wandered out into a field and died from exposure and the family found out the officer saw him that night and did not try to check on his welfare. Talk about outrage.

Case law is also clear that an officer can use the force necessary to protect himself and does not have to retreat because of a threat.

Again, there doesn't have to be a black and white law to be broken to justify a stop by the police.
inquisitive_mind
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January 19, 2013
He wasnt acting crazy, he was on the sidewalk.im not saying Petty shouldnt have tried to make oral contact with him, but once Flores kept walking, Petty testified he had to run up on Flores from behind and didnt identify himself as a cop before he grabbed him, when Flores felt a stranger grab him from behind, he did what me or you would do he turned around and tried to pull away, Petty then threw him to the ground face first and landed on top of him, at this time Flores probaly felt his life was in danger and tried to defend himself by going for the gun.

"Again, there doesn't have to be a black and white law to be broken to justify a stop by the police."

Unless they have Reasonable Articulable Suspicion (RAS), they cannot detain you. What that means is that they need to be able to articulate that a crime has been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed and YOU are connected to that crime. "Looking suspicious" or a having a hunch on their part is not enough.

Do you get it yet? Petty could try and question him, but he broke the law when he grabbed him.

"Those willing to give up liberty for security deserve niether and will lose both" THINK! Dont be a SHEEP.
doors17
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January 20, 2013
I-mind, He had to have court appointed psychiatrist determine if he was mentally competent to stand trial. Do you know what their results were?
pinkwillow
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January 20, 2013
Petty had reasonable suspicion, that they guy was on PCP Based on his training and experience. Here's another case decition you obliviously aren't aware of.

"If a suspect refuses to comply with an order to stop, officers may of course use force to accomplish the detention. This is because the right to detain “is meaningless unless officers may, when necessary, forcibly detain a suspect.”39 Or, as the Ninth Circuit explained in U.S. v. Thompson:

A police officer attempting to make an inves- tigatory detention may properly display some force when it becomes apparent that an indi- vidual will not otherwise comply with his re- quest to stop, and the use of such force does not transform a proper stop into an arrest"

You are wrong, but I did notice you went from what law did he break? To well, petty needed RAS. But couldn't touch him.
inquisitive_mind
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January 20, 2013
@Doors17, no the psychiatrist hasnt spoken with him yet, the last court was only a hearing to determine if there was enough to charge him. His next court is feb 8 or 9, just so his chargea could be read against him and after that the psychiatrist is going to talk to him.

@pinkwillow, I agree, if an officer tells u to stop u ahould obey, but that didnt happen here, petty testified that he never asked him to stop or that he was detained pr under arreat, petty asked him twice, "what are you doing?" Flores just like you or me as americans have the right not to respond, the only thing u have to answer is ur name and address, petty never asked him that or gave the order to stop. He just pulled alongside somebody that wasnt breaking any laws, asked "what are ypu doing?" Flores kept walking, petty got out of his ca, ran up behind him, w/o identify himself as a cop, grabbed flores and when he pulled awa, petty threw him face first into the ground. And I brought up ras was to show u that petty had no right to detain him because you said that u dont have to break a law to be stopped by an officer. You have zero credibility in your argument, come with facts, not theories and assumptions.
doors17
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January 20, 2013
i-mind, thank you for answering my question. We'll just have to wait for them to complete their examination before this can move forward.
Smartguy101
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January 24, 2013
inquisitive mind: let me paint a picture for you and everyone else here. lets say you live on Hawethorne drive where this took place, and you look out your door at 12:20 am on a Feb freezing night, and you see Flores walking passed your house in just his underwear. You and everyone else would call the police to have him checked before Flores could even get out of your sight! Because you would absolutely assume he was on dope or was crazy, or that he just possibly committed a crime. But because officer petty was doing his job and was driving through a neighborhood and saw flores before anyone could call the police on him, flores wasnt breaking any laws eh? Garbage...And for your information, Petty did tell him to stop when he contacted him. Flores knew he was a cop and he knew petty was talking to him all three times he was spoken to. He's lucky to be alive resisting arrest like that. Grabbing a gun from an officer as if he has the right to protect himself from a cop that way. He's where he's supposed to be in jail, crazy or not. "No legal right to detain him"...get a life retard and have your shit straight before you make comments like that. At least go to the court cases and listen to the testimony from the officer
backinblack
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January 19, 2013
Alex, I'll take wait for the facts for $200. Because the case has not yet been fully litigated for now I'll stick with:

A) All reasonable people should realize no one is ever going to win an argument or confrontation with an officer on the side of a road. Comply, get a badge number, and go from there to pursue any available recourse against the officer if they did something wrong.

B) Regardless of the time, it's suspicious behavior to be walking around in public in your underwear and socks, and doing so could indicate being under the influence of PCP or some other drug.

C) People under the influence can be a danger to themselves or others.

For those who don't follow along too well please take note I'm not taking a side.
grapesrain
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January 18, 2013
For those who have nothing positive to say. If you were in Officer Petty's position as an officer that night, what would you have done? Were you even there? I'm glad our officer is still here with us. Glad he got the better of that situation or we would have had a blue funeral. Grab a cops gun? Not a smart thing to do. Obviously grabbing Petty's gun was even a dumber thing to do.
Urmomma
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January 18, 2013
Yes plain and simple. I have to agree with Mr. Roberts after seeing the foto of two black eyes, a busted nose and lips.
doors17
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January 18, 2013
So what should have the officer done when he was going for his gun? What would you do in a similar situation?

I remember this story from last year and the replies from what were obviously friends or family of this guy on how upset they were on his condition. That I can understand since we can all be guilty of seeing such traumatic events with our hearts and not heads when it involves someone we love. However let’s not lose the fact that this could have ended deadly and horribly wrong for all involved. If Mr. Flores truly does suffer from mental illness then I hope he get the help he needs.

Stories like this should be a reminder to all of us that whatever we pay our police officers, it’s certainly not enough and how thankful we should all be for their service.

inquisitive_mind
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January 18, 2013
Well written article, only thing missing out, is that when Petty grapped Flores from the back, Flores pulled away from his assailent and then Petty threw him to the ground.
pinkwillow
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January 19, 2013
Finish the story,

Then he tried to take the cops gun and kill the cop.

You and chrisroberts are two peas in a pod.
crap1210
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January 18, 2013
Chris Roberts you are an ediot! plan and simple. Do you ever have antthing nice to say about anyone? You are another one of those guys that couldn't pass the test to become a police officer so all you do is slam Tracy PD any chance you get.
ChrisRoberts
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January 17, 2013
Nothing illegal about walking around in your underwear and socks.

Sounds like Officer Petty is a lame petty cop. LikE most Tracy PD, he is there to pull someone over when they have not committed any crime.

Flores seems to be using legal means to fight for his life from the officer who was illegally detaining him.
Smartguy101
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January 24, 2013
I recall this case about a year ago. Its amazing that all of you have something to say about the officer when none of you were there. Flores is just some great guy walking through a neighborhood in his underwear at midnight on a freezing Feb night right? None of you would have called the police on him I'm sure if you noticed him walking past your house that way...After all he wasn't doing anything wrong right?


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