Assault Victim, San Jose Police Department Clash
Arrest of assault suspects fails to quell controversy over attack investigation
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Community, Local, News,
by Josh Koehn on Mar 14, 2012
Atul Lall continues to criticize the SJPD, which arrested one of the men suspected of beating him in November. He says the real attackers are still free.
There are at least two sides to many stories, and in the assault against Atul Lall, one comes from a bitter victim of violent crime, while the other emerges from a defensive police department.
According to Lall, police lend more credence to his assailants’ drunken recollections.
On Nov. 21, Lall was driving home from an East Side Lucky grocery store when he was pulled from his car and beaten until several teeth jangled in his mouth and his jaw was broken. He says his unprovoked attackers hit him with a tequila bottle and called him a terrorist, while punching and pouring liquor on him, which led police to classify the incident as a hate crime.
Last week, police announced the arrest of two suspects, based on an anonymous tip received Feb. 24. The District Attorney’s office charged one of the two suspects, Emilio Romayor, 21, with a felony count of assault with a deadly weapon, with enhancements for inflicting “great bodily injury” with a bottle of tequila. The other suspect, arrested and later released without charges, is Emilio’s older brother, Rogelio, 23.
The District Attorney’s office chose not to upgrade the charges to a hate crime, as silent and blurry video surveillance suggested that a parking-lot traffic dispute caused the incident. Both suspects contended that Lall came close to hitting Rogelio when backing out of a parking space and struck Emilio’s leg when fleeing the scene.
The Romayors also admitted in the investigative report that they were blacked-out drunk and don’t remember much of what happened before or after the incident.
Although media coverage has suggested closure with the apprehension of the confessed attackers, Lall feels nothing close to pleased.
He says he has been victimized yet again, claiming that the suspect charged—still in custody as of press time—only held his car door open as Romayor’s accomplices did the real damage.
“I don’t know why he has any credibility,” Lall says. “Police are covering up their tracks, because I might sue them for negligence.”
Lall continues to doubt police—he awaits findings from a complaint filed with the Independent Police Auditor’s office for what he saw as negligence by investigators—and he claims that Emilio Romayor’s confession as the lone attacker is being accepted at face value for the sake of expediency. Or, he suggests, the suspect could be trying to protect accomplices from punishment.
Meanwhile, police officers involved in the case find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to defend not only their procedures but also the arrest of someone who was clearly involved in the attack.
“Our victim has made it very clear he feels we didn’t respond to his case adequately,” says SJPD spokesman Sgt. Jason Dwyer. “Our response is we’ve done everything humanly possible—we held a press conference, the detective has been working this case nonstop.
“To have an admission and letter of apology, I think we’re doing OK. I firmly believe we’ve satisfied our responsibility of finding who assaulted him, and we’re still not finished.”
Police released a sketch of one of the suspects at a Feb. 6 press conference. Afterward, Lall held court with reporters about what he perceived as missteps in the investigation. Chief of Police Chris Moore defended his department’s work and said communication with the victim was the only error.