Editor’s Note: This article contains potentially upsetting descriptions and footage of police violence against a community member.
In response to the now-viral video footage of San Diego Police officers forcibly beating Jesse Evans for arrest on May 14, civil rights advocates held a press conference the following day to demand that UC San Diego, the San Diego Police Department, the City of San Diego, and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria take action. Speakers such as Shane Harris and Amie Zamudio called for the release of the officers’ body-worn camera footage and the radio and dispatch calls that led to the officers’ arrival.
Evans, who is homeless and often spends time near UC San Diego’s campus, was reported to the police for alleged public urination. When officers arrived to speak with Evans near North Torrey Pines Road, Evans attempted to avoid discussion, which then prompted the escalation.
As seen in the video recording, the two officers moved from grabbing Evans by his arm to forcing him to the ground, then repeatedly punching Evans’s face and pressing into his skull with an elbow. Evans attempted to swing up at the officer as he was pressed to the road.
After the altercation, Evans was arrested for obstructing and resisting the officer with minor injury.
When Evans took to the podium at the press conference, he expanded upon his initial encounter with the police officers, stating that he had not urinated or exposed his genitals in public, although he had unclipped his pants.
“The true story is I didn’t even get to pee because they came around the corner. I unclipped my pants, and was gonna pee anyway,” Evans said. “‘You can’t be right here,’ talking about indecent exposure, and I was like ‘What, do you want me to piss my pants?’ … I started walking, I was like ‘If you wanna act like that, stay … out of my life, like this is why I hate this country; I hate this culture.’ … An animal or a dog can lift their leg and pee but if I gotta pee bad — if I feel like I gotta pee — I can’t go find a spot out the way and go pee. I get indecent exposure. That’s ridiculous to me.”
Roger Revelle College sophomore Tiara Nourishad, who shared the video to social media, told The UCSD Guardian that many students regard Evans as a kind individual who brightens their day on their commute to campus.
“Pretty immediately [after I posted the video], so many UCSD students started commenting about how kind and peaceful he is and how he waves to them at school and all this awesome stuff,” Nourishad said. “… He also sits at the bus stop near my house and reads a lot. I got comments from people being like, ‘Seeing Jesse is my favorite part of driving to school … my favorite part of going to Black’s Beach is seeing Jesse.’ Kids on the track team were like, ‘When we run around school, Jesse is always waving to us.’ … The police are supposed to protect our community, but then at the end of the day, people like Jesse — they are our community.”
Nourishad and sophomore Yosemite Caputi spent the afternoon traveling to different police stations in attempts to find out where Evans was held, but received little assistance due to a lack of personal information. While inquiring into Evans’s whereabouts, Nourishad said that the SDPD phone receptionists made a point to emphasize that officers were also injured in the process of arresting Evans.
“The police are supposed to protect our community, but then at the end of the day, people like Jesse — they are our community.”Nourishad said.
The two students then got in touch with homeless advocate Amy Zamudio, who has been working in the San Diego region for decades. Zamudio and Nourishad co-signed Evans’s bail, then the trio waited until approximately 5:30 a.m. for Evans’s release at the San Diego County Jail.
The press conference for Evans’s arrest and assault was held that same morning, May 15, at 10:30 a.m.. Activist Shane Harris opened the press conference with demands and policy proposals for city officials.
Harris’s demands and policy proposals are as follows:
- “The Mayor and the San Diego City Council and County Chairman Nathan Fletcher need to increase [the number of ] public bathrooms across the county and across the City of San Diego … Use some of those COVID-19 funds and direct the Chief Administrative Officer on the county level and … the City Council should direct that more bathrooms be offered across the City of San Diego. Using the bathroom is a right, not a privilege.”
- “We’re asking for the Mayor and the City Council to immediately work on releasing — and the Police Chief — the body-worn camera footage and all radio calls and dispatch calls prior to Jesse’s being approached.”
Harris also stated that he believes a separate party — possibly the District Attorney and the State Attorney General — should investigate the SDPD and this incident rather than having the SDPD conduct an internal investigation.
The goal of his appearance at the conference, Harris clarified, was not to condemn the police force or to make assumptions about what occurred between Evans and the officers, but rather to call for transparency and the background story for what happened to Evans.
He also described a letter he received from the Mayor, the City, and SDPD detailing a breakdown of current sworn members of the SDPD with use of force incidents on their records.
“The breakdown is actually not believable,” Harris said. “… In San Diego’s police department, there are two sworn members in SDPD who have two or more sustained use of force incidents on their records. These are incidents that were proven. They also recorded that there are currently four sworn members in SDPD who have two or more unfounded use of force incidents on their record. They also committed that there was one sworn member who has been involved in an officer-involved shooting who has two or more unfounded use of force incidents on their record.”
‘What we are looking at today is urinating while Black”Harris said.
After Harris spoke, Evans took to the podium and opened with an expression of forgiveness.
“First off, I just want to say that I completely forgive those officers, okay, and anybody in my life who has ever done me wrong,” Evans said. “I hope that I’m the last victim of such activity. I hope that if somebody decides that they want to be a cop because they want to protect and serve the greater good, they want to fight actual crime, they want anybody to feel safe when they patrol.”
Evans’s speech was followed by more from various community members, UCSD students, and homeless advocates. Those who spoke expressed that a large portion of the issue is a lack of homeless advocacy from the City, especially when it comes to publicly available restrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, advocates criticized ceaseless swatting calls that the SDPD received about homeless residents and the consequent damages it has had for decades.
Nourishad said that the lack of publicly available restrooms provided by the City of San Diego or by UCSD is what forces homeless people in situations where they need to urinate in public spaces.
“The whole issue is that Jesse needed somewhere to urinate,” Nourishad said to The Guardian. “I know that the school or the City of San Diego isn’t providing him a restroom. … I would really like to see some action taken by UCSD because I do think they have the means to help our community around us. … If that means putting a few porta-potties out for the houseless community, I don’t think that would be that big of a strain on UCSD.”
Aaron Ngan, a junior history and ethnic studies student, attended the press conference. As a part of the UCSD Cops Off Campus Coalition and UCFTP, Ngan felt it was important to show up to the press conference.
“Myself and several of my other colleagues with Cops Off Campus, we’re really frustrated by the messaging because it really is about reform and reform isn’t enough,” Ngan said to The Guardian. “… Policing as a system is what we need to target. White supremacy as a system, prisons as a system, and how they’re all interconnected. Even our university is very much invested in policing, in the military, in sustaining white supremacy… They don’t care.”
A Linktree for Evans can be found here, which includes a GoFundMe raising money for emergency hotel and legal fees, in addition to a petition calling upon UCSD to install publicly available restrooms.
Co-News Editor Andrew Ha contributed to the reporting of this article.
Images courtesy of photojournalist Joe Orellana.