Two Santa Ramona police officers caught on video savagely beating a man have quit the force in the face of an investigation.
In a shocking cellphone video, the off-duty officers - Officer Deirdre McMinnar and Sgt. Amanda Novak - can be seen drawing guns on a male victim, who is struggling with severe head wounds while a police dog attacks his leg. The Chronicle obtained a copy of the video, which shows events that took place July 15. Novak was already suspended when the incident occurred.
The alleged police-brutality incident was only broken up when new police chief Sarina Jade intervened, drawing her sidearm on the off-duty officers, and when alleged rapist and organ trafficker Lilith "Red" Novak entered the fray. Lilith Novak was ultimately apprehended.
"Both were placed on suspension pending an investigation by Internal Affairs," said Jade in a Friday interview. She said both Amanda Novak and McMinnar have resigned from the police force. "SRPD believes in building trust within the community and fully investigates all accusations of officer misconduct."
Jade said the investigation will continue even though both officers have quit, but "the only action that could be taken against them is legal, should Internal Affairs refer the matter to the District Attorney."
The video was taken by 19-year-old Angelyna Bennette, who said the dispute started when Amanda Novak parked her car on the sidewalk in front of the donut shop. Jade said the male victim allegedly set off the car alarm.
"We come up and just look at it, comment on it and I did tell her she parked like an a**hole," Bennette said. "She started talking about the city taking parking away for tables, then hassles (the victim) and comes at me saying I was trying to steal her car.
"Then when I come back with (McMinnar), they tell her (the victim) was.
"I told them, on the video, that no one did a damn thing. He touched the hood of the car and that was it."
The video shows Jade arriving and ordering the officers to stand down and drop their weapons.
Jade said the two officers accused the victim of resisting arrest.
"The department protocol when one is off-duty for anyone ranked below Lieutenant is to secure the situation and call it in. The protocol was not followed by either officer," she said.
While another officer can be seen watching from nearby, Jade said he arrived to find out what was happening and was not on duty, and he was ordered to stand down until asked to help.
"Internal affairs is still investigating so I don't know if he's being investigated or not. It's my understanding that he followed all protocols," she said.
"I want people seeing the abuse of power," Bennette said. "They go after who they want, whether they do wrong or not."
Bennette said she continued to film despite District Attorney Evelyna Stone verbally requesting that she stop. In an interview Friday, Stone said she did not want "a string of YouTube videos" hampering the investigation, but did not attempt to impede Bennette.
"I'm not sure why you think that I don't have the right to ask her to stop filming just as much as she has the right to continue filming," Stone said.
Jade says police continue to work to earn the community's trust, including with events like the recent open house at Smoke Signals, which highlighted the city's marijuana laws. She urged community members to contact police if they see anything. "And we support our news media holding us accountable."
Asked how the police force plans to prevent future incidents like this, Jade said, "I think we will need to do some retraining to better understand procedures."
"We're trained to react. None of us in the department want to stand by when we can handle the situation ourselves," she said. "If there had been a shooter that walked into the coffee shop and my officers had pulled weapons and taken him down, I still would have taken their weapons and opened an IA investigation, but I also would've praised them for a job well done.
"In the situation where there were no weapons involved and neither officer feared for their lives, then they should have called it in like any other victim would have to do."
Stone said, "We will not allow a crime to be committed without expecting those found guilty to face severe consequences, whether or not they are behind or in front of a badge."
WARNING: This video contains graphic violence and may be unsuitable for some viewers.
The scene would show a shaky camera picture as the one filming was running. Just steps ahead of the camera is Sarina Jade, in full uniform. She comes upon a scene and a moment after Sarina stops, the camera steadies.
The video clearly shows Dierdre and Amanda both with guns drawn on Tobias Reiper and a German Shepherd tearing his leg up. In the background is Az Brentt, watching a few feet from Tobias. Tobias also has a bloodied head.
Sarina takes her firearm out and holds it at the two women. She orders them to drop their weapons. Dierdre has now jumped on the back of Tobias to cuff him and telling Sarina she's arresting him for attempting to steal the car. She is told to get off him and she does, both women are staring at Sarina.
The DA's voice would be heard telling Angelyna to stop recording, but Angelyna says it is her right to do it. Then Angel describes to the camera that she walked up to a car parked on the sidewalk blocking the bakery and a moment later the guy with the manbun walks up. They have a quick discussion about what an asshole it was to park like that when the red head comes out and pulls a gun, then the other does and sics her dog on him. Angel explains she ran to get a cop.
The video shows the DA walking across the street when the Chief tells her to take the guns from the two OFFICERS. It further states that one of which was already suspended. They tell that officer they will have to take the dog as well, to which she gets really upset.
EMS is called for the guy and suddenly another red headed woman walks up. The other red-headed woman, the cop, goes running after her. The suspended cop pulls a gun on that woman, the chief runs into action shouting at the DA to get more cops and the scene would explode in a flurry of activity as Angel tries to get closer.
The video fades to a black screen here, presumably because most of the rest is Lilith violence.