Saturday, February 13 , 2016, 1:54 am | Fair 51º

DA’s Office Reviewing Videos, Witness Statements from Alleged ‘Excessive Force’ Arrest

District Attorney Joyce Dudley expects the investigation to be complete by Nov. 15

A physical altercation occurred Oct. 21 in the parking lot of Gelson’s Market, 3305 State St., between a Santa Barbara police officer and a motorist pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence.
A physical altercation occurred Oct. 21 in the parking lot of Gelson’s Market, 3305 State St., between a Santa Barbara police officer and a motorist pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office soon will finish its investigation of the Oct. 21 driving under the influence arrest in which a motorist was punched and Tasered by a Santa Barbara police officer, prompting allegations of “excessive force” from eyewitnesses, District Attorney Joyce Dudley told Noozhawk on Friday.

Video from the camera in the police officer’s patrol vehicle shows most of the incident — minus about a minute during which the altercation moved out of view — and Gelson’s Market, 3305 State St., where the incident occurred, turned over a videotape to the DA’s Office a few days ago, Dudley said.

Tony Denunzio, 50, of Santa Barbara, was pulled over by Officer Aaron Tudor in the Loreto Plaza parking lot. He got out of his vehicle and didn’t get back in when asked, which is, by all accounts, when the police officer approached him.

Witnesses allege that the officer used excessive force — punching and Tasering the man repeatedly — although Denunzio wasn’t resisting.

Statements released by the police said Tudor couldn’t get Denunzio to get on the ground and put his arms behind his back to be handcuffed and was resisting arrest, so the contact escalated from a hand on the arm to a trip, hand and knee strikes, and using a Taser. Backup officers saw that the Taser was ineffective and helped Tudor control Denunzio, police said.

One witness said a responding officer repeatedly punched Denunzio in the ribs.

Denunzio was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, violating probation, resisting an officer and driving with a suspended license, which police say is the result of a DUI conviction. He was transported first to the Santa Barbara County Jail to get a sample taken to determine his blood-alcohol concentration level, then to the hospital to get medically cleared, and then was booked into jail, where he stayed the night.

His attorney, Darryl Genis, has said Denunzio suffered a broken nose and broken ribs in the incident.

Dudley said her office will finish the investigation on or before Nov. 15, which will determine what if any charges will be filed.

“This is not a typical case; DUI investigations don’t usually take this long,” she said.

Police Chief Cam Sanchez reviewed the patrol vehicle video and announced five days after the incident that there would be no internal investigation into Tudor’s use of force.

“Based on what the video recording shows, witness accounts of the incident and after reviewing the corresponding police report, there is no apparent violation of department policy or law enforcement procedure that would warrant a formal administrative investigation of the incident,” he said in a statement.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer and supervising investigator Greg Wilkins began interviewing witnesses last week and are still reaching out to more. There were apparently many people who saw the traffic stop and arrest, Dudley said, and her office wants to contact everyone who has any information, photographs, audio or video recording of the incident.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Wilkins at 805.568.2357.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 11.05.11 @ 02:12 PM

>>>Police Chief Cam Sanchez ...“Based on…witness accounts of the incident…there is no apparent violation of department policy or law enforcement procedure that would warrant a formal administrative investigation of the incident.”

Really? So, it is department policy to beat people after stopping them if they are drunk? Seems like the policy needs to be changed, at a minimum.

» on 11.05.11 @ 03:03 PM

Over a dozen witness reported the use of excessive force in this traffic stop and arrest on October 21st in the Gelsons market parking lot in Loreto Plaza. And the dash cam video still has not been released to the media or the attorney on the case, Darryl Genis a well know local Santa Barbara Attorney. The police chief Cam Sanchez has already stated that their will be NO internal police investigation. Has the reality TV show On Patrol with the Santa Barbara PD effected their duty to the citizens of Santa Barbara? A number of these witness said they felt intimidated by the officers on the scene who told them what they DID NOT see. One witness even had a police detective show up at his house and bring him downtown to the police station to go over his statement? If you were a witness to this incident or have cell phone video and would like to have your witness statement taken without fear of the local PD and the DA’s office pressuring you call Darryl Genis’s confidential tip line 800 961-7371 leave your number. Do Not let the PD or the police Chief or the DA’s office or the Mayor forget who they work for. To protect & Serve or Assault & Intimidate witness and cover up misuse of police authority?

» on 11.05.11 @ 05:39 PM

The police chief is making a foolish mistake to try to sweep this incident under the rug.  It only makes the police look worse. There is enough evidence from enough credible witnesses to launch an investigation. I am glad the District Attorney is investigating the case. If a wrong was committed, it must be dealt with. The police will find they have more, not less support if they don’t ignore bad actions by individual officers. If the officers are innocent then they benefit from a thorough investigation rather than live with suspicion of wrongdoing hanging over their heads.

» on 11.06.11 @ 11:51 PM

Hey cool. Old story, nothing new, trying to keep the emotion high so we read and look at that ads. See if I can write this as it should be…

“Something happened a couple weeks ago we were told about. Nothing new is happening with the story. We’re resurrecting this story so we can fill space and make people think there is something new. There really isn’t. Please look at the advertisements. We will make this the story of the week every week we don’t get new information. In tomorrow’s edition we will write that Kim Kardashian is getting divorced.”

Noozchicken staff writer

» on 11.07.11 @ 02:25 AM

I’m suspicious that Suspicious is one of the cops involved in the parking log beatdown. He seems to be about the only one in Santa Barbara who wants this swept under the rug. Other than Undercover Police Chief Cam Sanchez. Unless they’re the same guys.

» on 11.08.11 @ 12:13 PM

Between this and the Beutel incident, do we need any more proof that our law enforcement department(s) need housecleaning.  Too bad Sanchez didn’t get his new job, but it’s easy to see why they didn’t want him.

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