Charges dropped in police-resident brawl at Valencia Gardens

DJ Williams is arrested by SFPD shortly before the incident sparked a fracas between officers and Valencia Gardens residents.
from YouTube video by Rasta Dave

After spending the weekend and Monday in jail, D’Paris “DJ” Williams’s was released this morning (Tue/19) at 2am. Williams was initially charged with felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon in a widely publicized brawl between police and residents of Valencia Gardens on Friday, but the case was discharged pending further investigation, according to the District Attorney’s office.

It was Friday afternoon, and 20-year-old Williams was having a very good day. As his cousin Dave (last name withheld due to his fear of retaliation) tells it , Williams had just finished applying for a job at Goodwill, and spent the afternoon enjoying the Batkid festivities along with thousands of his fellow San Franciscans. On his way to visit his cousin in the Valencia Gardens housing complex in the Mission, plainclothes officers spotted Williams riding his bicycle on the sidewalk.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

According to the SFPD, the plainclothes officers identified themselves as police, displayed their badges, and when Williams “failed to comply” with their orders to stop, they caught up to him and attempted to detain him. As they struggled to put Williams on the ground, nearby neighbors came out to defend him.

“He became combative, resisted arrest, and multiple subjects came out of that residence and formed a hostile crowd around the officers,” Gordon Shyy, a spokesperson for SFPD, told the Guardian.

In layperson's terms, a brawl broke out.

Someone allegedly threw a cane that nearly hit an officer. An officer let loose haymaker punches towards a backpedaling neighbor, as a crowd shouted them down. By the end, Williams and three of his cousins’ neighbors were bloodied and bruised as they were taken into custody.  

Williams was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, which Shyy said was for biting an officer. Shyy maintains that the officers pulled him aside for a traffic infraction of riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, and the officers decided to detain Williams because he ignored their calls to stop and continued toward the residence.

But just why they decided to pull Williams over is questionable.

The officers were undercover, plainclothes narcotics and gun seizure agents called the “Violence Reduction Team,” Shyy said. Why such specialized officers would leave their vehicle only to make a traffic citation is still unclear, and the SFPD declined to answer that question.

“What were these guys doing stopping DJ for a traffic violation?” Jensen said, incredulous, to the Guardian.

When asked how the officers justified their use of force, Shyy read directly from the police report: “Williams continued to resist by pushing his upper body against the sidewalk and tried to get to his feet. Williams was unhandcuffed and unsearched at this point. From my knowledge and experience I know this is a high crime area and people in this area often carry weapons. I believed if Williams were able to free himself from us, he may attempt to access a weapon.”

Not long after, Williams’ friend Travis Jensen, a local photographer who was teaching Williams the trade, took to Instagram to sound the horn, describing it as police misconduct.

“This isn’t the DJ I know,” Jensen said of the SFPD’s characterization of how Williams reacted. None of the men involved have criminal records, as far as Jensen knows, and were just concerned about their friend.

Video of the incident widely circulated around the internet, riding the wave of Batkid publicity. All were taken to SF General Hospital, according to the SFPD.

The cops, having no other information except that Williams was riding his bike on the sidewalk, were afraid Williams would have a weapon. In the end, all he had on him was a Capri Sun and a cupcake.

Now that the case is discharged, does Williams have to wait in fear? Not likely, Public Defender Jeff Adachi told the Guardian.

“The reason you discharge cases is you can’t prove them,” Adachi said. Though this shouldn’t be taken as sacrosanct, he clarified, it’s likely Williams can leave the incident behind him. “If I was advising him I would say the case was discharged, and they’re not going to file. Generally speaking if they could, they would file it now.”

A protest is planned for tonight at 5pm in front of SFPD’s Mission station, which Williams’ cousin Dave said was a “peaceful protest. I’ll make sure of that.”