SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego Police are responding to allegations that they used excessive force on a deaf man after he got upset over a traffic ticket.
It happened Monday afternoon on 5th Avenue in Hillcrest. The man, identified by SDPD as 48-year-old Jeffrey Robinson of Los Angeles, stopped in the resale shop, Flashbacks, to inquire about selling shoes.
His car was parked illegally in a 20-minute commercial loading zone on 5th Ave. near University Ave. The employees in the store say he was only parked there a few minutes when a parking enforcement officer showed up.
"He couldn't speak, so he was communicating via a legal pad we had, as he was writing something to ask us, he saw that he was going to get a ticket," said Tiara Arreloa.
Arreloa and a couple other witnesses say Robinson was using sign language to try to communicate with the parking officer when she pepper sprayed him.
"He wasn't touching her, his hands were just here. He was trying to talk to her," insisted Arreola.
SDPD Lt. Scott Wahl says the photos making the rounds on social media don't tell the whole story.
"There's a lot more going on then maybe the small angle that they see," said Wahl.
Wahl says according to the parking officer and three separate witnesses, Robinson ran towards the officer in an aggressive manner.
"He ended up slapping the parking enforcement officer's hand away as she put the ticket onto the windshield of his car. As she was backing away from him, he crumpled up the ticket and threw it at her, bounced it off of her chest," said Wahl.
He says Robinson pounded on the window of the officer's car and continued advancing toward her. He says she deployed pepper spray after he refused repeated orders to comply.
"Parking enforcement officers don't have to wait until they're punched in the face to protect themselves against somebody who is starting to demonstrate this type of behavior," said Wahl, who pointed out that parking attendants are not sworn officers.
"You gotta remember our parking enforcement officers are not police officers, they don't have bullet proof vests, they don't carry guns, they're not trained like a police officer is," said Wahl.
Wahl says the parking officer called for back up. Two officers in the area were there quickly. He says Robinson continued acting aggressively. At one point, he reached for something in his trunk. One of the officers used a taser on him.
"When he began to go through the back of his trunk of his car, that raises some very serious questions on behalf of officer safety," said Wahl.
Robinson is in jail facing two misdemeanors of obstruction and battery. Some of the witnesses think police should have done more to de-escalate the situation.
"It ends up with three men on top of him, this poor man on the ground can't even communicate, but they are forcing him down on the ground over a parking ticket, " said Arreola.
Wahl said all of the department's officers go through training on how to communicate and work well with the deaf community.
"This really wasn't a matter of a communication issue, this was more of this person losing their composure over a parking ticket," Wahl said.