Homeless Man’s Attorneys Demand More Deputies Be Prosecuted in Beating Case

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A legal team for a homeless man allegedly beaten at San Francisco General Hospital by a San Francisco Sheriff’s deputy is demanding that three more deputies be prosecuted for the assault, the team announced last month.

Fifty-nine-year-old Fernando Guanill was dozing in the emergency room waiting area when Deputy Michael R. Lewelling allegedly approached him and started a conversation, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. Lewelling allegedly ordered Guanill to vacate the hospital, according to Guanill’s legal team, which said Lewelling had no reason to ask Guanill to leave.

According to DA officials, Guanill complied with the deputy and stood slowly with the assistance of his cane. As he started toward the door, Lewelling grabbed his collar, pulled him back into a seat and knocked away his cane, a video obtained by the DA’s Office appears to show. Lewelling then grabbed Guanill’s throat and choked him, DA officials said. Guanill’s legal team said Lewelling punched the homeless man in the facial area and that Guanill lost consciousness from the choking.

Other deputies arrived as Lewelling dragged Guanill out of the camera’s view.  Two of the deputies taunted and laughed at Guanill, the legal team said. One broke Guanill’s glasses and tried to step on his feet; another punched Guanill multiple times in the ribs, according to the legal team. The legal team said several hospital employees witnessed the beating.

The team said a false report by Lewelling led the other deputies to book Guanill into jail on assault charges. The report asserts that Guanill used his wooden cane to assault the deputy, according to the DA’s Office. The other deputies didn’t file a police report, as would have been proper, Guanill’s legal team said.

Bay Area civil rights attorneys Randy Daar, Kyndra Miller, Greg Bentley and Curtis Briggs are representing Guanill in a civil rights claim against the deputies and the county. The team is demanding that the DA’s Office file criminal charges against the three deputies who either assisted or failed to intervene in the beating. The team also wants the deputies to file incident reports.

“It is disturbing that a patient at San Francisco General Hospital can be beaten and falsely charged,” Briggs said. Briggs said the incident points to a widespread problem in the sheriff’s department that poses danger to the public and SFGH patients.

District Attorney George Gascon called the alleged beating by Lewelling “unnerving.”    

Sheriff’s Department assistant legal counsel Mark Nicco wasn’t available for comment on the case. Rachael Kagan, San Francisco Department of Public Health spokeswoman, referred questions to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and the DA’s Office. SFDPH oversees SFGH. Max Szabo, spokesman for the DA’s office, said he’s unable to provide more details because the case is under investigation.