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SLO City employee on paid leave 3 years after bar assault

Posted at 7:38 PM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-18 16:03:23-04

UPDATE: The City of San Luis Obispo on Thursday provided KSBY News with more information on why a city employee was placed on leave earlier this week, nearly three years after an assault on two people at an Avila beach bar.

“The City had not seen the video and did not have any detailed understanding of the underlying facts of the case until the video appeared on line.  Obviously the actions depicted in the video are appalling and, combined with the guilty plea, warrant follow up to evaluate whether there is a nexus with the employee’s ability to perform his job duties effectively and in the interests of workplace and community safety, which are the City’s priorities. As soon as the City became aware of the violent and seemingly unprovoked nature of the crime, the City took immediate action and placed the employee on administrative leave.”


ORIGINAL STORY: An assault at an Avila Beach bar that led to criminal charges being filed against a City of San Luis Obispo employee happened in 2016 but he was not put on administrative leave until this week.

Chris Olcott, an inspector for the City of San Luis Obispo was caught on camera elbowing a woman in the face and then punching a man repeatedly at Mr. Ricks in May 2016.

Even though Olcott was convicted of the offense two months ago, he was not put on paid leave until Tuesday, the day the surveillance video became public.

The city has now launched an internal investigation but declined to comment on what it called a “confidential” review of its employee.

“I just remember a white flash and my head was ringing,” Isaac McCormack, who was struck by Olcott, said. “It just happened so fast.”

On that day, McCormack and his friend, Camile Chavez, stopped by the bar for a drink.

“I remember approaching the bar and she (Chavez) told me someone was bumping into her or in her space,” McCormack said.

Seconds later, surveillance footage shows Olcott elbow Chavez in the head area before turning on McCormack.

“Certainly the video shows very egregious conduct by Mr. Olcott,” San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said.

SLO County prosecutors filed one misdemeanor and one felony assault charge against Olcott.

But at trial, the jury could not unanimously agree on a verdict.

“I don’t see how people who watch the video, being the jury, anyone else could see how he didn’t do it,” McCormack said.

But Olcott’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu said he slowed down and replayed the the video for the jury so they could see Chavez push Olcott repeatedly. Funke-Bilu said the woman’s actions forced Olcott to defend himself.

“If you look at the video carefully, there were seven separate physical invasions of my client before my client pushed back in self defense,” Funke-Bilu said.

The defense attorney also claims that Chavez, whose body fell limply to the floor, did not fall from Olcott’s punch, but rather her intoxication.

Olcott pleaded guilty in February 2019 to a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault.

“Given that this particular charge can be charged as either felony or misdemeanor, and his lack of any criminal history, this resolution we believe was in the best interest of justice,” Dow said.

But Olcott did not plead guilty because he believes he is at fault, according to his attorney. He just didn’t want another trial to disrupt his job as an inspector for the city of SLO.

“People plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit all the time,” Funke-Bilu said, adding that his client wasn’t all that intoxicated at the time of the offense.

As part of his sentence, Olcott must serve 60 days in jail, spend three years on probation and pay restitution to the victims.