Photo: Marilyn Nieves / Getty Image
The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office has cleared four Redwood City police officers of potential criminal charges in a fatal incident involving a man with mental health issues, officials said Friday.
The incident occurred on Aug. 13 when Officer Oscar Poveda responded to a home in Redwood City after receiving reports that 55-year-old Ramzi Saad, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was acting erratically, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Poveda was the first officer to arrive at the scene, Saad’s mother’s house, after Saad had shoved his mother to the ground.
After confirming with the neighbors that Saad had mental health issues, Poveda attempted to lower his voice to calm Saad down and lure him to the curb.
Saad then told the officer, “You wanna pull out your gun and shoot me, don’t you?” Wagstaffe wrote in his report.
Poveda attempted to calm Saad down, but to no avail. As Saad appeared to become increasingly “agitated,” Poveda pulled out his Taser and hid it behind him, Wagstaffe wrote.
Poveda called his supervisor and said that he didn’t need back-up, but asked for medical assistance for Saad’s mother. During this time, Saad punched Poveda in the face, Wagstaffe wrote.
Poveda deployed his Taser in response causing Saad to fall to the ground on his stomach. He used his Taser again when Saad didn’t comply with commands to put his hands around his back. In response, Saad grabbed a piece of fruit from a nearby tree and threw it at the officer, Wagstaffe wrote.
Saad then grabbed a brick as Poveda attempted to deploy the Taser again, but the Taser didn’t work and instead shocked the officer twice.
When the Taser didn’t work, Poveda dropped it on the ground and started inching closer to Saad to physically subdue him, Wagstaffe said.
Saad rolled onto his back and began kicking at the air until Poveda grabbed his left leg, Wagstaffe said.
“Stop,” yelled Poveda, according to the report.
But Saad continued squirming and kicking as he rolled onto his stomach.
“Finally, Officer Poveda, struggling constantly with Ramzi Saad, was able to get both of his wrists handcuffed behind his back,” Wagstaffe said.
At that time, three other officers, Daniel Di Bona, Brian Simmons and Matthew Cydzik, arrived at the scene. The three officers described Poveda sounding scared and in a physical fight when they heard his voice over the radio, Wagstaffe said.
The district attorney noted throughout his report that Saad was a large man at 6-feet-1-inch tall and 273 pounds, and that officers said Saad had “unbelievable strength.”
After joining Poveda, Di Bona grabbed Saad’s flailing legs and used his body weight to push Saad’s legs to the ground. Using his own body weight, Di Bona crossed Saad’s ankles and bent his legs at his knees and lower legs toward his buttocks.
Cydzik put his knee between Saad’s shoulder blades, but Wagstaffe said that Cydzik didn’t use his entire body weight. And Simmons “centered himself on Ramzi Saad’s mid-body, controlling the decedent’s handcuffed arms, as he had been ‘bucking’ his body under the officers.”
The officers relieved the pressure when Saad appeared to calm down. Wagstaffe said the officers monitored Saad’s breathing.
When his body became “less rigid” moments later, the officers realized he had become non-responsive and called the paramedics that were helping Saad’s mother.
Poveda and Cydzik had crisis intervention training, which prepares officers to deal with people in mental health crises, Wagstaffe noted.
An autopsy on Aug. 16 concluded that Saad died from cardiac arrest that occurred during physical exertion, physical restraint and from the Taser.
Wagstaffe concluded that the officers were justified under California Penal Code section 196, which is to apprehend a person for a felony, or lawfully suppressing any riot, or lawfully keeping the peace.