Richmond officer faces criminal investigation for allegedly hitting man with stun gun dozens of times

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RICHMOND — The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is considering criminal charges against a Richmond police officer who allegedly struck a man with a stun gun dozens of times during a fight last April.

Officer Eric Smith Jr. is on administrative leave in connection with the April 9 incident, in which he allegedly struck a 33-year-old man with a stun gun approximately 35 times during a ground fight. Smith was trying to arrest the man after a brief car chase earlier in his shift at the cemetery, according to multiple law enforcement sources.

The Richmond Police Department called a press conference on Wednesday to announce the investigation and release video of the alleged incident, which was captured by a nearby surveillance camera as well as Smith’s body camera, it said. authorities. In his report, Smith said he believed the man was in possession of a firearm, but no weapon was found on the man, law enforcement sources told this news agency.

Smith saw the man — a suspect in a brief car chase — parked in a parking lot on San Pablo Avenue in San Pablo around 1 a.m. on April 9. The officer was alone and would later report to superiors that the suspect resisted and tried to run away from him. Smith allegedly tried to stun the man and then physically hit him with the Taser when he failed to deploy properly, according to law enforcement sources.

Smith, a Brentwood native, worked for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and the Pittsburgh Police Department, as well as a brief stint in Richmond, according to state payroll records. In June 2021, the City of Richmond released a short biographical video about Smith in which he called law enforcement “my calling” and said his goal was “to be on the streets where I can reach people and stop them from going to the jail of the county.

“I think being a police officer is the best job and it can be very rewarding,” Smith said in the video. He later added, “I just want to be somewhere I’ve been gone for a long time, 30 years from now people can say, ‘Yeah, maybe I didn’t like this situation, but Officer Smith m showed that there was hope.

It is rare, but not unheard of, for an officer to face criminal charges in connection with a use of force incident in Contra Costa County. Ten years ago, a jury acquitted former Richmond police officer Dedrick Riley of assault charges related to a drug arrest in 2009. Riley remained on the force, faced at least two other administrative investigations and retired last year before the latest investigation cannot be completed.

Most recently, District Attorney Diana Becton’s office prosecuted former Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Hall for shooting a 32-year-old Newark man during a low-speed pursuit in Danville. Hall was found guilty of assault, but jurors were unable to rule on a charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to six years in state prison.

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