Crime

Sheriff releases body-cam video of struggle that preceded man’s death in south Modesto

Stanislaus County releases video from fatal incident

Warning: Graphic Video: The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department released this 14-minute video of the incident involving the death Rudy Santillan, 36, of Modesto, who died after struggling with deputies on Tuesday, July 16, 2019.
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Warning: Graphic Video: The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department released this 14-minute video of the incident involving the death Rudy Santillan, 36, of Modesto, who died after struggling with deputies on Tuesday, July 16, 2019.

Video released Thursday from body-worn cameras show sheriff’s deputies struggling in south Modesto with a man who later died of unknown causes.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse released the footage of the July 16 encounter with Rudy Santillan, 36, in a vacant lot on Imperial Avenue.

No update was available Thursday on the investigations into the encounter, which involved 10 deputies and a sergeant. The cause of death is still pending, Sgt. Josh Clayton said late Thursday afternoon.

Dirkse was not immediately available for comment.

The 14-minute video starts with audio of Santillan’s father telling a dispatcher that his son was acting erratically and feared that rival Norteño gang members were after him. Other witnesses said Rudy Santillan was breaking items and walking on the roofs of nearby homes.

The video shows Santillan, shirtless and foaming at the mouth, as deputies urge him to surrender. He walks toward them with his hands up, then goes to the ground for a reason that is unclear. Deputies then shoot several Tasers onto him.

The video shows deputies holding Santillan on the ground, including one by kneeling on him, as he is handcuffed behind his back. They were about to use “full leg restraints” as well when they saw that Santillan was having a medical emergency, a caption on the video said.

It said deputies started CPR and then turned it over to paramedics, who already were staged at the scene. Santillan was taken by ambulance to Doctors Medical Center, where he died the next day.

“We are sharing this video with you, our community, so you can have as much information as possible about a situation we take very seriously,” Dirkse said in an on-camera introduction.

Following protocol, three investigations are under way: One is by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, another by the sheriff’s Crimes Against Persons Team and the third by the sheriff’s Internal Affairs Division.

The deputies and sergeant all remain on duty.

Later Thursday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Department released a Spanish version of the video.

This is the second video released by the department since it started using the cameras in April. Earlier this month, video from the fatal officer-involved shooting of Stephen Murray, 52, of Modesto was released.

This comes as Assembly Bill 748 took effect July 1. The law calls for state and local police agencies to release audio and video, including body camera footage, from critical incidents within 45 days unless doing so would hamper an active investigation.

Dirske said earlier this month that the new law is part of the reason for his decision to release videos of critical incidents, but he said he also is doing it because the public expects it.

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John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.
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