An award-winning California deputy who has been sued three times in six years for beating citizens with his flashlight remains on the force, even after the latest lawsuit against him settled for $200,000 on Tuesday.
Of course, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department never admitted to any wrongdoing in any of the settlements involving deputy Paul “Scotte” Pfeifer.
But two of three incidents were caught on video, showing us there was plenty of wrongdoing on his part.
So it’s only a matter of time before he strikes again with his flashlight.
Tuesday’s lawsuit stems from an incident in December 2015 when a homeless man named John Reyes asked the deputy to move his vehicle, which was blocking his path as he was walking with a bag of groceries, forcing him to have to walk onto the street.
The deputy refused to move the car and Reyes cursed at him.
That prompted Pfeifer to pepper spray, taser and then repeatedly beat him with his flashlight as he held Reyes’ face on the street with his boot.
A witness captured the beating on video, but sheriff officials told the local media that the video did not capture the first part of the beating that showed Reyes not complying with whatever orders he was issuing.
But the video shows Reyes trying to comply, but being unable to do so because of the boot on his face and the multiple flashlight strikes against his body.
“It is disappointing and almost unbelievable that the Sheriff’s Department continues to maintain that Pfeifer did nothing wrong,” said Reyes’ attorney, Stewart Katz. “The department is clearly incapable of honestly evaluating the conduct of its personnel.
“As for Mr. Reyes, the proceeds of the settlement allowed him to clear his family support obligations and buy some property and a home, as opposed to being homeless on the streets of Carmichael. That part of it gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction.”
In May 2016, the department settled another flashlight beating incident for $150,000, which was also caught on video.
The incident took place in September 2015 after deputies chased a man named Mickey Donahue in a stolen car.
Two dash cams show Pfiefer repeatedly beat Donahue with a flashlight as he is sitting in the drivers seat of the car, strapped in with a seatbelt.
Then another deputy pulls Pfiefer away, only to start punching the suspect repeatedly himself.
“This is a case that turns squarely on the fact there was dash-camera footage available,” he said in a telephone interview. “It shows the importance of this type of evidence instead of a he-said-she-said standoff. That’s why we were able to settle at a fairly early stage.
“Here we have an officer out of control and another who stepped up while his partner was catching his breath and punched my client in the face.”
Merin said he was informed by letter from the department that its internal investigation did not sustain the claims by Donohue.
“Both Pfeifer and Noble were exonerated of discourteous treatment and excessive force,” Merin said. “If they looked at the video footage and think that’s fine, I guess you could say this is yet another indication of Sheriff Jones’ lack of leadership.”
Pfeifer, a decorated 14-year veteran of the department, has been sued three times in cases alleging he beat suspects with his flashlight.
Then there was Solomia Treshchuk, a 25-year-old woman attending a party that was broken up by deputies who climbed over a backyard fence in 2008.
When she pulled out her camera to take a photo, the deputies pounced on her, handcuffed and hogtied her, then deleted the photo.
As they were placing her in the back of the patrol car, Pfiefer repeatedly struck her legs with his flashlight before pepper spraying her.
She was charged with resisting arrest, but prosecutors declined to retry her after her case ended in a mistrial.
She sued and received a $20,000 settlement in 2010.
However, a sheriff’s spokesman said the department does not see a pattern of violence with these incidents.
“Generally speaking, when you have a law enforcement officer who has spent 10 to 15 years on the job, who is in patrol services and/or specialized units that the nature of them are somewhat more proactive or more aggressive, it’s not uncommon to get some use-of-force complaints over the years,” he said. “Use-of-force allegations are not necessarily tantamount to wrongdoing.”
However, the department also likes to point out that Pfiefer is a “hero cop” who has won numerous awards in his career.
But generally speaking, when you have a law enforcement officer who has spent 10 to 15 years on the job, it is not uncommon for them to have received a long list of awards considering they hand out awards for just about anything.
Below is the raw video from the latest incident as well as two dash cam videos from the second incident, followed by a pair of news reports on Pfiefer.
PINAC Investigative Researcher Felipe Hemming contributed to this report.