A former Palo Alto police officer pleaded guilty this week for assaulting a man he was arresting in 2018.
Wayne Benitez, 66, who was a sergeant at the time and has since retired, slammed the face of a handcuffed arrestee against the windshield of the arrestee’s car, according to court documents. The officer also admitted to filing a false police report.
As part of a court offer, Benitez was sentenced to 750 hours of community service. The former officer, known amongst his colleagues as “The Fuse,” will also be forced to take anger management and LGBTQ sensitivity training.
“When someone with a badge breaks the law, it cracks the confidence that people have in law enforcement,” said District Attorney Jeff Rosen. That is not just unfortunate. It is unacceptable. No one is above the law.”
Handled by the DA’s Public and Law Enforcement Integrity Team, the incident occurred at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park on Feb. 17, 2018. That night, Sgt. Benitez was among a group of officers taking into custody a man on suspicion for driving with a suspended license. Benitez was caught on a security camera slamming the victim’s face into a car windshield after the man was already handcuffed and was not resisting.
When the victim complained that he was bleeding, Benitez responded, “You’re going to be bleeding a whole lot more.”
After the arrest, Benitez’s body-worn microphone captured him saying to his fellow officers: “See how quickly they behave once we put our foot down? And that’s what we don’t do enough of.” Benitez also seemingly mocked the defendant for being gay when describing the incident later that evening.
There was no mention of that force in Benitez’s report about the incident. In fact, he wrote that the only force that was used was to pull the victim from the trailer. “No other force was used,” Benitez wrote. The video and audio did not come to light until the following year.
The victim, 42, was initially charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license and resisting arrest, among other charges. The charges were later dismissed by the DA’s Office.