April 19, 2016 (San Diego) The incident occurred on May 4, when Robert Branch allegedly resisted arrest, and challenged Detective Paul Ward on his legal authority to arrest him. This is after Ward allegedly followed him for 9 miles after both vehicles almost collided on the Second Street Onramp to interstate 8 West in El Cajon.
The hearing in Superior Court Keneth K. So’s courtroom lasted most of the day, and the heart of the issue was the use of radio communications and use of force. Detective Paul Ward was first questioned in the morning by Defense lawyer Marc Kohnen. In the afternoon Assistant District Attorney Michael Runyon took to the questioning.
There were a few facts established and accepted by both the people and the defense. Detective Ward did not use his communications equipment to call his dispatcher, or for that matter have handcuffs on him. Partly this was becuase Robert Branch’s tactical vest gave the detective pause. This transferred what Ward intended to be a ticketing event, into a tense event, The vest was of a nature where the detective had to consider the presence of weapons.
Though it was also established that early in the encounter Branch did not act aggressively towards the detective, even though he appeared agitated. Further in the morning testimony Kohnein questioned Ward repeatedly on his training as a police officer. He also questioned him more than a few times over the use of force in this case, and what constitutes acceptable use of force. The materials that Counsel used came from the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) material from 2001. Counsel also established that while Ward attended the academy initially over 30 years ago, officers undergo periodic training in perishable skills. Among those skills are arrest methods and traffic stops.
Counsel also asked Ward if he was aware that those who have a carotid restraint applied to them, can loose consciousness, and when they come to they remain in the same state of mind? Ward answered “no.” Counsel pressed as to whether Ward knew Branch lost consciousness.
Ward answered “I believe he was unconscious,” but he was not absolutely sure, even though Counsel reminded him that this was in his police report.
During the afternoon hearing Assistant DA Runyon established that on May 4 2015 Branch was driving erratically. According to Ward Branch made about 10 lane changes that he observed without signaling, and he almost collided with him. This was while passing his on the driver side first at about 70 miles per hour but Ward estimated Branch accelerated to 80 miles per hour.
Once they came to a stop, and Ward came out of his vehicle, he saw Branch wearing the tactical vest, which “highlighted my awareness of safety concerns. The shad multiple pockets,” that could hold weapons. He also said that the whole goal originally was to get the drivers license and registration and hold off for a black and white to show up with a ticket book. But the vest immediately raised threats in his mind.
Ward repeatedly gave verbal commands and tried to pat down Branch, but he resisted, and refused to follow commands, even after he was also told that he was lawfully detained. According to Ward, this led to his decision to use the Carotid restraint, since this was “the quickest method to get that person under control.”
Branch came back to within ten seconds, or so. Ward also added that before ehe second carotid restraint he attempted a wrist hand cuff lock, and continued to commands to stay where he was, and to calm down.
When he applied the second carotid restraint Branch first tired to trip him, which Ward demonstrated to the prompting of the DA, by acting it out. He got in front of the DA who simulated hand positioning, and then wrapped his leg around and pulled forward, almost tripping both men.
After that Branch took out a can of pepper spray and threatened to use it. Ward applied a tad more force, which never drove Branch unconscious, but led to Branch dropping the can. After a little while the situation was finally under control.
After Ward was dismissed from the stand, officer Segei Grinik of the San Diego Police took to the stand. He was the officer who interviewed Justin Hudnall at the scene. Grinik told the People that it was Hudnall who was told by Ward to call 911.
When Grinik asked Hudnall why he believed Ward was n officer, even though he never showed him credentials, Grinik told the Court, that the exact quote from his report was because “he told me so.” He also said that the reason why Hudnall ended up with the gun in his possession, even if momentarily, was because Ward killed it in his direction.
Court will resume tomorrow.