Investigation into videotaped incident outside Morro Bay PD finds no wrongdoing

Posted at 6:10 PM, Apr 09, 2018

A third-party investigation into an incident at the Morro Bay Police Department this past February is now complete.

In that incident, a Santa Maria activist said he was recording video at the police station and was assaulted by police during a confrontation. 

Police argue they detained the man for safety reasons.

The investigation focused on two allegations — the first, the unlawful detention of the man, known on YouTube as "Nasty Nathanial," and the second, the unnecessary use of force against him.

"The investigator looked at the entire incident, looked at the film that was available, looked at the law and the policy," said Morro Bay City Manager Scott Collins.

Independent investigator Rich Thomas of Thomas Consulting reviewed the incident that occurred on Feb. 6, 2018.

Nathanial Thomas Plotner told KSBY he was at the Morro Bay Police Department that day to conduct a First Amendment audit.

"The point is to test your right to film in public. It’s to see if the public officials, how they’re going to react to it," Plotner explained.

Plotner filmed the department lobby and parking lot.

"In this particular incident, actions and activities created sufficient concern and we need to check those things out and we did in this case," said Morro Bay Police Chief Gregory Allen, who was present during the incident.

Plotner refused to show officers his ID. Seconds later, they took him to the ground.

Some took to social media, citing California Penal Code 148(g) that reads, "a person who videotapes a peace officer in a public place where he or she has the right to be…. does not constitute a violation."

"But it was looking at the totality of that, just the behavior and other things that were concerning, which lead to the detention," Collins explained.

Police had said Plotner was wearing all black military-style clothing and standing at the entrance to the fenced-off parking lot for police vehicles.

City leaders say Thomas Consulting determined, "that the decision to stop, detain and demand identification was lawful and within department policy given the circumstances as was the actual physical detention and handcuffing."

The investigator also reportedly determined the use of force was appropriate for the circumstances.

"Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t surprise me but yeah. I mean, the P.I. that they hired is the former Ventura Chief of Police so, I mean, I think that says a lot right there," Plotner said in a phone interview with KSBY on Monday.

Based on the findings, Chief Gregory Allen and the other officer seen in Plotner’s video were exonerated of the allegations against them.

KSBY tried to obtain a copy of the formal investigation but our request was denied.

We also requested the police body camera footage but that, too, was denied.

City officials say they reached out to Plotner twice in regards to the investigation but he did not respond. Plotner told KSBY he was in the Philippines at the time and that his attorney responded to investigators.