Tulare Man Claims PD Brutality

Jonathan Smith and his dog Chizum. Catherine Doe/Valley Voice
Jonathan Smith and his dog Chizum. Catherine Doe/Valley Voice

Jonathan Smith, a longtime resident of Tulare, left his home Tuesday morning, August 25, to cash a check and stop at the hardware store. But a funny thing happened on the way to the bank. His twenty minute errand turned into a seventeen-hour ordeal and he didn’t make it home again until 2:30am the next morning.

According to Smith, he was slowly driving down South K Street when he noticed a police car following closely behind. Even though the police car did not have its lights flashing, Smith pulled into a mom-and-pop auto repair shop and stopped his car. He rolled down his window and asked the officer if he needed something. The officer asked to see Smith’s license and registration. Smith asked the officer to identify himself so he knew the officer was legitimate because he was acting funny. The officer responded by returning to his vehicle and calling for backup.

Within three minutes the compact parking lot was buzzing with five police cruisers. The same officer approached Smith’s open window with a ticket booklet and ordered Smith to sign his traffic ticket. Smith asked what the ticket was for. Because he inquired as to the nature of the ticket, which was interpreted by the gaggle of police as a refusal to sign, a second police officer reached into Smith’s car and pulled the handle. Before Smith knew what was happening he was laid out on the cement parking lot. On his way out of the car, the left side of his head was smashed against door. Once on the ground, the officer tried to grab Smith’s cell phone, which was recording the altercation. Smith hugged the phone tightly against his chest to protect it.

From the back seat of his car, Smith’s Golden Retriever, Chizum, leaped out to protect his owner. A policeman drew his gun on the dog. Another policeman saw the drawn gun and quickly tasered the dog to possibly avert his colleague from shooting Chizum. When Smith saw that his dog was in danger he handed his cell phone over to the officer in order to try and divert the attention away from Chizum.

The dog was hit in the mouth and bleeding as he ran into the four lanes of traffic on South K Street. A witness, Doug Emery, sitting only 20 feet away, tried to coax the dog out of the traffic and Chizum took refuge in the trailer park across from the shop.

After Smith relinquished his cell phone he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. At this point, according to Emery, a police sergeant put his knee on Smith’s back and started pummeling Smith’s head.

“All I know is that they beat the s**t out of that boy and he was already down,” said Emery. By the seventh blow Emery yelled at the sergeant, “F**k he’s down already, quit socking him.” The sergeant continued punching Smith in the head until a police officer who seemed to be in charge told the policeman to stop. At that point the sergeant pulled Smith’s handcuffed hands as far up Smith’s back as possible and Smith had to take evasive action crawling up the side of his car to prevent both shoulders being dislocated. The sergeant then physically threw Smith into the back of his patrol car.

While Smith was sitting in the back of the patrol car wondering what had just happened, another scenario was unfolding at home just five minutes away. Smith’s foster father, Michael Koonce, was informed by their neighbor that they had seen his son being arrested at the auto-shop. Koonce then noticed that Chizum was missing but that the back gate was closed. He put two and two together and realized that Smith had taken Chizum on his errands and that the police must have taken possession of the dog.

After a few calls, Koonce found Chizum at Tulare Animal Services. According to Koonce, he went to the shelter to identify the dog but could not take possession himself. He had to wait for a police officer to bring the dog home. Half an hour later the officer arrived with the dog, but before he opened Chizum’s metal cage, he informed Koonce that he and Smith should be grateful that the Tulare Police Department did not shoot the dog. He said that they did, however, taser and pepper spray the dog. Koonce was so appalled by Chizum’s appearance and condition that he didn’t think to get the officers name or badge number.

Meanwhile, in the patrol car, the officers determined that because of Smith’s injuries, they had to get him cleared by a doctor before they put him in jail. According to Smith, they took him to Tulare Regional Medical Center, where Smith was cleared in 10 minutes by an ER doctor. From the hospital, Smith was taken to the Bob Wiley Detention Center. The reason for his detention was that he was pulled over for a vehicle code violation, and then arrested for resisting arrest.

It is important to note that Smith is a slight man born with spina bifida and at least 50 pounds lighter than any of the attending police officers.

While in his jail cell, Smith’s head throbbed from the beating and he was disorientated. He threw up several times and was ridiculed for missing the toilette. After six hours without improvement he was released. According to Smith’s lawyers, John Sarsfield and Maggie Melo, an individual can be held without charges for up to three days. But in cases where medical attention is needed, it is common practice to immediately release the detainee to avoid the cost of medical care, which is what happened in Smith’s case. Once released and in the care of his father, they drove straight to the hospital. Koonce, a former nurse, could see that Smith needed immediate medical attention. After an array of tests Smith was diagnosed with swelling of the brain, concussion, impaired vision, fluid on the knee and a bruised back. Smith is currently on crutches because of his injured knee.

His cell phone was not among the belongings returned to him up on his release.

What’s Next?

Smith is scheduled to appear at Tulare County Superior Court on September 24. At the hearing the charges could either be dropped or the Tulare County District Attorney could order that Smith be charged with resisting arrest. In any case, Smith’s lawyers are hoping to get his cell phone back. Smith commented that the police recorded the incident also.

In the mean time, Sarsfield and Melo plan on filing a complaint for excessive force. They also plan on contacting the FBI. When asked why, Sarsfield said, “Because I’m sick of this crap.” He said for a county this small there are way too many cases of police brutality and he blames the District Attorney, Tim Ward. The law Offices of Sarsfield and Melo is currently handling from five to eight police brutality cases throughout Tulare County. Both Sarsfield and Melo said they are former police officers who have defended police in court, so they know both sides of the issue.

Sarsfield says that the Visalia Police Department isn’t perfect but they rarely see claims of police brutality coming out of that department. “It’s because of good management,” Melo said.

This is the second high-profile abuse case concerning the Tulare Police Department to hit the media. The Visalia Times-Delta reported on July 23 that a Lindsay woman is pressing charges for being detained for three days because she was talking on her cell phone while driving. The Tulare Police Department believe it was a case of mistaken identity.

In addition to the abuse cases, Tulare’s Police Chief, Jerry Breckinridge, was arrested for domestic violence in May and has since been put on administrative leave. Tulare’s Deputy City Manager, Margee Fallert, has been on administrative leave since April for undisclosed reasons. Taxpayers are paying $22,500 a month to keep these two high-ranking employees on paid leave.

60 thoughts on “Tulare Man Claims PD Brutality

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  1. OK ” ME” How did this young man get his so called injury then? and I’m sure melo has a PI on the case and check if the auto place had any cameras , good job valley voice for the reporting on this keep us up dated! on this case!

  2. This isn’t the first I have never seen corruption like the tulare PD , we recorded them ileagally towing my car, my bf put the phone into his friends cup holder shut the door and walked to the officer, another officer Guerrero he’s a shirt pathetic piece of shit, then walks up to the friends car says nothing opens the door abs takes the phone !!! They don’t care ! I have filed several grievance, there’s a Sargent that works at like he’s fat Mexican looking but weird last name WS so immature as to say that saying ” by Felicia” I turned and said “BYE BITCH” lol I have zero respect for the pathetic tulare pd

  3. John is not only a master munlipuator he is a drug addict and dealer he was probably high on coke or shrums when this all went down bad mouth and thretted the officer witch is why the cop calld back up he is the only reason that the cops did all they did to him he most likely got pulld over in hus pos red bmw 318 for falty tail lights or reckless driving witch he is vary reckles in that car and he is vary short temperd

  4. well then if he is a “master manipulator”, then explain the witness there and the poor dog with tazer marks and evidence of pepper spray. don’t be idiots and say he’s this or that if you weren’t there at the time of the incident unless you both are cops that did the brutality or let it go on for the time it occurred and are trying to be sly and cover your names so nobody knows who is running their fat mouths.

  5. All I have to say is by law a officers car should be recording at all times. So why not pull up the footage to see what happend…n some of you people saying all this negative stuff should just stop.cause. This could of happend to anyone no matter who you are!! There are ways to figure this out .but nobody should look like tho specially after being pulled over by police ..these people are supposed to protect. Us not cause bodily injury..

  6. If your going to stand ups for someone then you also need to know facts about that person. I pray and wish Jonathan happiness in his future. But he has caused the most heartache all by himself. I am not aware of all the facts but it sounds a bit fishy to me. The media only tells you what you want to hear. I’m sure there was a good reason for pulling him over. This is not the first run in with the law for him.

  7. He is lying out of his butt out Tulare police put thier lies on the line for ALL of us and they never go after someone unless your breaking the law…in this case you’ve all heard”law enforcement officers are there to ENFORCE the law” so common sense don’t be breaking laws or you will not find yourself in their paths. Just like everyone else job, a tax preparer is there to “do your taxes” and machining is there to “fix your problem” … Get the point!!! So with all the comments from people who say they know him and how he lies…, I wouldn’t believe this story but once again there you citizens who believe every freakin thing like” the worlds ending crap” you sit hear and believe a reporter who wasn’t physically there, and only goes off of what someone “tells” them… STOP believing the media!!!!!!! That’s the problem with our society!!!

  8. Yeah , and criminals always tell the truth.. I forgot, silly me. Oh and lets not forgot the news, they always report the truth right.. What a load of crap.

  9. I believe this man I know this man he is not a drug user he doesn’t manipulate people so I make sure you get your facts right before you post shit and I’m not saying all cops are bad but they are some corrupt cops out there

  10. Cool story bro, but have to call BS! Way too many holes in the story to even be considered semifactual. Here’s a novel idea, wait till the investigations done before you show your skills at investigative jurnalism suck. Normally you want to get at least 2 sides of the story, both involved parties and maybe some credible witnesses (the witness statements sounds similar to “hands up, don’t shoot).

  11. Those of you siding with the officers in this situation are strongly misguided.

    When did brutality become an acceptable way to detain an unarmed assailant?! There are better ways of taking someone into custody. And regardless of that kids past transgressions, we are ALL innocent until proven guilty.

    It’s not these officers jobs to be judge, jury, and executioner.

  12. I too know how frustrating it is to have to defend your Good name I had a similar situation not as escalated but having the bad luck if the draw and having to deal with the wrong irresponsible officer at the wrong time mind u I’ve done academy I know the process and rules for cops and when they step out side their guidelines and into their own rule book they try to ruin a person’s good name for their own ego. Luckily Imine wasn’t as bad but almost identical on most of it and was just happy that I got a clean record thank god. I hope this kid gets 10 mil outta a lawsuit

  13. Police officers do NOT waste their time harassing people who are doing nothing wrong. OBVIOUSLY this is not the case with Mr. Smith. All critics of cops: you too will not be harassed unless you are exhibiting illegal behavior. Oh, the next time you need a cop, maybe you should rethink such negativity regarding cops.

    • Actually, “Lucy” the police don’t get to “harass” anyone, whether a person is breaking the law or not. They can enforce the law-nothing more. They do not get to decide who gets punished. That is left to juries and the courts.

      An officer who takes the law into his/her own hands is a criminal, plain and simple.

  14. All I know is I wouldn’t call the police for any type of an emergency what so ever . 2 of my very good friends 1my best since we were 7 were shot and killed by officers in tulare co. Both were unarmed. One his back was to the officers and hands in the air and 9 fuckin rounds were fired hitting him in the back. The other was running out of a building and nothing like freeze it’s police, or stop or nothing shots just started being fired and he was shot dead.. and that’s just 2 that I’m close to imagine how many there has been …. my point I think they have become population control and are eliminating whom they belive aren’t productive members of society . The jails are to full so fuck it let’s jus fill the cemeteries instead… I’d call 911 for the fire department they are hero’s but 911 for police is putting yourself in harms way in my opinion. Fuck tulare county police

  15. Police everywhere are out of control.
    To the people defending this brutality, I hope you never have to feel what it is like to be brutalized or terrorized by the police.

    These men need to be fired instead of getting a vacation. Call Tulare pd and tell them this will not stand. I have seen multiple occasions where multiple police show up to routine traffic stops and harass the individuals.

    All these men are severely traumatized individuals who see themselves as Rambo rather than public servants on taxpayer dimes.

    I take it the physical evidence on the dog, the injuries, and the witness were all in on it.
    The dog was personally down because he hates the k9 unit.

    Open your eyes. If the we’re innocent the phone will be returned with footage intact and the dash cam would be shown.

    We will not see either.

    • You’re sitting here assuming they won’t do that but they might, they just haven’t yet. You can’t act like or think in any way that you know the whole story simply because you saw these peoples sides-you didn’t even see the other side.

  16. Why was he trying to be a dumbass and record the incident? All youre gunna do is agitate the officers, the police might have over done it in beating him. But at the same time who’s to say he wasnt being a little shithead anyway? Odds are if youre recording it youre trying to be a smartass with the officer. I dont agree with the beating, but at the same time there are always two sides to a story. This article is only sharing the kid’s side of the story. Moral of the story, “be courteous to officers and respect them and they wont have a reason to whoop your ass, even if theyre disrespecting you they are the law. That’s the difference between handcuffs and a ticket.

    • It is our right to record police. We pay them, they work for us. Recording is a safe record because police can legally lie. And ‘Yeah Right’, police are not the law, they are civil servants to protect us not beat citizens over Traffic CODES.

      • Yeah right ur fucking ignorance is unbelievable… U n no way pay the officers salary u r most likely a low life with no job and my taxes pay ur welfare… Like most people bashing the cops u get what u deserve.. Act a fool get treated like a fool

  17. I have seen the Tulare police departments brutality first hand. I am a veteran of the United States of America. We as a country send our son’s, daughter’s and parent’s to fight oppression abroad just to come home to it right.here. The Tulare police department needs to be investigated period. The officers practice oppression on a daily basis. They abuse the shield they hide behind. No unarmed citizens should be brutalized by any peace officer. That is why we have a court system! To punish the guilty that were convicted in a court of law period. If the police officers can not restrain themselves then maybe they need not to be on the force. To serve and protect right!, guilty until proven innocent right, wake up people before it happens to you!

  18. Soo… where’s the statement from the Police Department? If you’re going to try to be a journalist, at least act like you’re trying not to be biased against the police. You got the kids story, his dad, and a lawyer. Did you contact the DA or the PD? I understand… you didn’t want to.

    • By the time the author got this story, it was already in the hands of the lawyers and therefore, legally at least, already in motion. Neither the Tulare PD or DA would comment on either an ongoing investigation or litigation. The PD refused to speak with Koonce. They’re certainly not going to speak with a reporter. We also got a eye witness’ story that nearly exactly corroborated the kid’s. The kid’s hearing is on the 24th of this month, so–we’ll see.

  19. Omg!!!!! I know this kid! I’ve known him for more than 5 years as a customer and i have talked to him here and there around town. He is a super sweet guy. A hard worker. Always polite and friendly. Always smiling and considerate of others. Im shocked!! Seriously shocked and I believe it in my bones this poor kid went through this nightmare. Just because someone has a badge and drives a police car doesn’t mean he’s not a sociopath or doesn’t carry psychological problems that can explode at any given chance. Theres more there lingering beyond the uniform. Police men now and days can be just as dirty as those who roam the streets. Im not saying all of them are, I know very passionate and caring Police officers personally, I just know there is a dark side to some that many fear to believe and are in denial. Just google police brutality just in this year alone and your jaws will drop. Yes, there are 2 sides of the story, but if that was your son, brother, friend,and dog, don’t you think they should try to fight back and tell their side of the story, even if they feel singled out? Never stay quiet about these things. Always speak the truth loud and clear, even if the truth is being twisted around. That poor kid and dog.

  20. Ugh I’m sorry but this annoys me. Clearly if the officers recorded the whole damn thing they were following protocol, of course this guy’s not gonna tell everyone ya resisted arrest or ya I was being a dick and not complying to the officer. Stupid ass got what he deserves

  21. I’m not going to say the Tulare PD did it or that this young man is lying and provoked it. What I will say that I find strange is this young man said a police car was following behind him and he pulled over even though they didn’t have flashing lights on him to ask them if he could help them with something or if there was a problem (something like that). Who does this? Seriously!!! The Tulare PD was doing their job and was patrolling to see if someone was speeding, driving to slow, driving without tags ect. and this young man confronted them, that in itself isn’t normal so I think we need to wait until all evidence comes in before we jump the gun and say brutality against the Police Department. Although I don’t think he needed worked over either even if he was doing something wrong. Five against one they should have been able to detain him without such bruises.

  22. U people r flipping pathetic and news wrote of this story is pathetic… Everything this “outstanding” citizen said is lies… He can’t even be truthful about his “foster parent” it’s his boyfriend for gods sake so y not just say so… He broke the law he got what he deserved.. U people want to talk shit about the police but r the first little bitches to call them when u need them… Right Tiana

  23. funny how tpd is supposed to protect and serve, but who? the dealers on their team, i could name a few. these sorry *** cops killed my brother, took my children from me and guess wat my brothers may be gone, but my kidz love me more then ever and are back fuck the police and there sloppy tactics be careful to those who work with them u all will be exposed real soon………corruption can only be covered up for so long then all of the sudden the crazzy Bitch was rite all along….


  24. It is ignorant to assume that either sides are guilty, since none of those reading this article witnessed this incident. It is not far fetched to believe that this may have happened. Is it possible that this was an obnoxious, disrespectful individual that was out of control? Or that the police used excessive force to arrest this man? Both scenerio’s are believable. Until an investigation is made, no conclusion can be assumed.
    Police brutality is unacceptable. But the general population needs to be respectful and honor the laws of our land and those that have sworn to uphold it.

  25. When pulled over, always produce license, registration and proof of insurance when asked. Always step out of the car when asked. Cheerfully accept a ticket – it’s way better than getting killed, beat up or hauled downtown. The time to contest a ticket is in court.

  26. Not all Tulare police are bad but a majority of them are..they shot and killed a friend of mine that ran from them cause he was scared..and come to find out it was a mistaken identity..they did not have to shoot and kill him that’s y they have tazers…so watever the case may be the Tulare Police are known to go to far….and look at this mans face he was punched in the face several times if that’s not brutality then what is?????

  27. I knew this kid as a customer of mine for over 2 years. He was seriously the sweetest kid. I can’t fathom him being belligerent to cops. He was always very polite and just a friendly happy kid. I don’t know his history but this is scary shit. I’ve been in a situation with a cop that was so riled up I couldn’t believe it. He though I was going to be a police chase because I didn’t see or hear him pulling me over for doing a California stop at a light. When I did see him and pulled over he came up on me ready to fight. I’m a female that had two kids in the car. I apologized and explained that I didn’t see him. He beraded me and told me I could be out on the ground on my face etc etc. meanwhile another copy had a gun pulled out by the two kids at the back window. It was a mockery. He was the peace office. They are to bring peace to situations. Not anger and rage. It doesn’t matter even if this kid was rude to them. Then take him out and cuff him. The kid is small and couldn’t put up a fight against two cops. Even if he tried. This is not ok. They need to do more background checks and personally checks on these cops that are on a power trip.

  28. Folks, look at the known facts. Disorientation, nausea & vomiting? That people is “concusion” with a capitol “C”. ie: severe HEAD trauma. No wonder the county released him, they didn’t want to be liable for the hospital bills and (potential) future care issues. As for speculation over Tulare PD’s (alleged) over-reaction? That is common knowledge among other county law-enforcement agencies. And if you think about it, a not uncommon result in organizations with poor discipline and leadership. Use your heads on this one people. Think cause and effect!

  29. Wow everyone that has a story to tell all of a sudden found an audience. Why did the writer need to bring up Mrs. Fallert and Mr.Breakinridge? This article wasn’t about them, its not about the rest of your stories or opinions, its about Jonathon, the truth will come out eventually, I can’t believe, well I guess,yes I can the inmature, unprofessional way this is scripted, followed by the word, share!! Really all right everyone go back to your glass houses…nothing to see here, God Bless us all, after all he has this already worked out.

  30. I do also know this man, and he probably was lying. A million things could have happened. I would hope that they did not hurt the dog (and the dog in the photo looks perfectly fine and uninjured),because there was no reason, but we don’t know the whole story and we are only hearing one side. It is completely possible that some douche cop beat him up without reason, but its also completely possible that he is lying and fought back. I will not assume I know and none of you should, either, since you weren’t there. Stop assuming the police are the bad guys. Anybody could be in this story.

  31. Well I know of this guy and his “foster father” Michael Koonce, they have a history of going around causing incidents in local stores to make some kind of lawsuit. They tried doing it at a store I managed years ago, but word gets around and isn’t the only store they’ve tried at. Michael Koonce is nobody’s father but his boyfriend, why lie about that if you’re story is the truth?

    • The Valley Voice did not lie about anything. Rather, it reported what it was told and was corroborated. Koonce’s status was never in question and is not now germane.

  32. @Bill – You are speaking out your a$$! Cops are people too and have the same faults. They lie and break the law, just like everybody else. The bad cops give the rest of them a bad name for sure, but they are still bad and do not deserve a pass just because they hide behind a badge. The cops could leak the footage if it supported their claim.

  33. I’ve been a Cop for 26 years & 18 of those years I’ve worked Internal Affairs, investigating claims such as this. It doesn’t matter if allegedly Smith is or was a drug dealer or reckless in whatever form. These are labels and shouldn’t waver either way with any of you if what happen is true. Every Law Enforcement agency has a percentage of excessive force. This will never change, because nothing is perfect. I guarantee that Sarsfield & Melo will expose the abuse of authority if it is present.

  34. This happened to my fiance early this morning Tulare pd is always harassing him and officer Santos planted drugs in the engine compartment back in November of 2016. This morning eight officers from Tulare pd attacked him for no reason as he was pulled out his car that Tulare of ruined by chasing him for nothing someone needs to step up against these officers and put law suits against them.

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