San Francisco

Local Police Deny Racial Profiling Claims After Cole Valley Man Detained [Updated]

When six undercover officers thought a longtime Cole Valley resident, Dominick Jerry, resembled a suspect in armed robberies, they detained him for an hour outside of Luke's Local at 960 Cole St. (and Parnassus). 

But Jerry captured the detention—which started between 9 and 10pm on September 14th—and streamed it on Facebook Live. It has since been viewed more than 10,000 times and shared widely on local social media.  

Click on the image below to start the video of the detention:

The incident is notable chiefly because the only visual similarity between Jerry and the robbery suspect is that they are both black men.

It was the third time something like this had happened to Jerry, who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years.

[Update: Park District Captain John Sanford was asked about the incident by a Cole Valley resident at Monday night's police community meeting. He spent more than 15 minutes refuting the claim that racial profiling was involved. A Hoodline reporter attended the meeting and recorded it. We've provided more details from Sanford's statements at the end of the article.]

"They basically just said 'We need you to stand right here, sir, and answer some questions. You fit the description' [of a suspect],'" Jerry told us. "The thing that pissed me off was I could hear the radio chatter. The person they were looking for looked nothing like me," including the color and description of his clothing.

Jerry began filming the encounter after he informed officers he was sending their pictures to his lawyer, "just so I kept everybody honest."

In his footage of the encounter, which lasts some 12 minutes and remains peaceful—even through a voluntary pat-down to prove Jerry wasn't carrying a gun—Jerry reiterated his standing in the community and the fact that he was only steps from his front door, where he had just been with his family.

The incident occurred just outside of Luke's Local in Cole Valley. | Photo: Logan C./Yelp

"Don't be black with a hoodie after dark," he said in the video. "Hey, don't be black after dark, it's not safe."

SFPD spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan said the officers detained Jerry because he matched the suspect's description, but that after a visual identification check, they determined he wasn't the person they were looking for.

"Is it legal for us to detain someone?" she said. "Yes, it's legal."

Since the incident, the story has circulated widely in local online community groups. 

In the wake of the incident, Jerry said that "people in Cole Valley have been very very supportive. It makes it feel like home, it's a good feeling."

"When I was a kid, you guys scared me," Jerry said to officers in the video footage. "Now you just piss me off...when this is all over, I do want an apology...I want a lot of 'sirs' in that shit, too."

[Update: At the Park Station community meeting on Monday night, Captain John Sanford vigorously countered the accusations of police profiling.   

He said that there were several robberies that had occurred in the neighborhood, and that police reports described the suspect as a black male with a white beard, approximately 5’8, slightly over 200 pounds, wearing dark clothing.

In response to Jerry’s detention, Sanford pointed out that Jerry is a black male with a grayish beard, approximately 5’9 and 240 pounds, and at the time he was stopped, he was wearing a black hoodie, shirt, and sweatpants, which had a stripe on the side.

“That is almost an exact match,” he said, emphasizing that the information had also been circulated to police officers over the radio and that they were actively looking for suspects that matched the description to keep the community safe.

He added that after Jerry had been detained, officers determined that he was not connected to the robberies. Sanford also said that officers had apologized to Jerry after the detention.

He also said that there was misinformation about the investigation spread through Facebook and Nextdoor. A widely-shared early post from a user about the incident had repurposed an image of a suspect—of a “slender black man in his 20s”—who was being sought in a different series of robberies.

Many residents saw the photo and incorrectly assumed it was proof that the police had been looking for that person in this situation, he said. 

“As an African-American male, I understand exactly what [Jerry] could be feeling,” Sanford explained, “but my job as a district captain is to see if any of our officers are violating the law in any manner. Definitely I’d look to see if they are profiling anyone, because that is against the law, and against our department policy.”

He also pointed out that two of the main officers involved in the detention were minorities themselves (one African-American, one Asian), and that he had worked with both for years and could vouch for their professionalism and goodwill. 

In conclusion, he said, “I’m satisfied, after spending three hours on this case, looking from detail to detail to detail... that there is nothing that could convince me that they were racially profiling.” 

Thank you to Brandi V. and the other tipsters who alerted us to this incident.


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