In the eyes of his peers, Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy Paul “Scotte” Pfeifer is a hero who once saved a baby from a three-day hostage ordeal.
But in the eyes of many inside the local federal courthouse, the Northern California deputy is a poorly trained lawman who likes to strike compliant citizens with his long, metal department-issued flashlight.
Pfeifer’s bloody flashlight has been cited as the weapon of choice in three separate federal lawsuits in the last six years.
The latest suit was filed last week in Sacramento Superior Court in response to another flashlight attack in December after John Reyes politely asked Pfiefer to move his police cruiser from blocking the path of foot traffic, twice.
The often-in-trouble with the law 51-year-old transient was en route to his mother’s house with a bag full of groceries. The only other path around the cop car for pedestrians was in busy vehicle traffic.
Reyes admits in court documents he then told Pfeifer “move your fucking car” and flipped him off.
The brutal scene which followed was recorded by a passing motorist who pulled over into a Starbucks parking lot. Michael White then leaked the footage to the Sacramento Bee before it went viral.
Repeat flashlight strikes recorded in the cruel viral video beat-down left Reyes with a concussion, broken nose, broken ribs, a bruised face and a large gash over his left eye.
“You could hear the thuds,” White told the paper.
Reyes was taken to jail and booked with resisting arrest, but the Sacramento County District Attorney did not file charges as result of the encounter.
Sacramento Sheriff Department Sgt. Jason Ramos did not respond to either phone messages or an email from PINAC with questions regarding the weight and dimensions of Pfeifer’s service issued flashlight, or the extent of his training with the agency described dual threat weapon.
Blumenthal Uniforms and Equipment is the Sacramento County Sheriff endorsed supplier of nine black uniforms items, and a folding pocket knife emblazoned with the agency badge logo. A foot long metal Maglite flashlight with a reinforced barrel finish that weighs two pounds is sold just a click away on the site Pfeifer can buy his uniform for $149.99.
“Our department does authorize the use of a flashlight as an impact weapon when the officer determines that its use is reasonable given the circumstances, when the officer is using that in self defense or defense of another person, and when its use is more practical than another option of force that an officer has at the time. One example might be in close quarters, rather than using a baton that’s longer when an officer perhaps doesn’t have sufficient room to deploy it.”
The paper reports a pending suit filed in the same federal court in July seeking $813,264 in damages alleges Pfeifer brutalized Mickey Donahue to end a high speed police chase. This incident also caught on film from the dashboard camera of his police cruiser shows the deputy striking his flashlight on a now compliant seat belted driver with no means of escape.
Pfeifer was named in a prior federal suit which settled for $20,000 after he was among four deputies who crashed a party. In this oldest case the deputy pepper sprayed, hog-tied, and repeatedly struck Solomia Treshchuk with a flashlight in the back of his police cruiser.
He booked the 25-year-old for resisting arrest, but first pictures of the deputies climbing over her back fence were deleted from her phone.
Reyes’ attorney, Stewart Katz, writes in the latest court complaint:
“On the day in question, for no reason other than an apparent reaction to ‘contempt of cop’ conduct, Deputy Pfeifer tasered, pepper-sprayed and beat plaintiff in the middle of the street, in broad daylight, with his department-issued flashlight. The wrongful attack was witnessed by many citizens who were appalled by the conduct, some of whom recorded the deputy’s illegal conduct.”
Katz use of the term “contempt of cop” is a negative to the ears of district attorney offices in California. To them, the term is only used by specialized lawyers and misconduct minded journalists to describe an officer’s hot headed response to a citizen encounter that does not entail a violation of law per se, but stems solely as a result of hurting the cops fragile ego.
The Inland Empire Weekly reports the San Bernardino County District Attorney went as far to create a special 15 lawyer task-force in his office to solely prosecute “contempt of cop” charges for even misdemeanors. Police misconduct specialist Jerry Steering told the Weekly the effort is to validate far reaching obstruction charges such as resisting arrest.
Steering estimates it could cost him firm up to $150,000 to defund such a charge with the full weight of a over zealous district attorney’s office behind it.
In the meantime the website Transparent California reports Pfeifer made $183,805 in total pay and benefits in 2013.