Attorneys for two Black Lives Matter demonstrators are calling for charges to be filed against the driver of a silver BMW who was involved in an altercation with those protesters.
Sam Grocott and Robert Lastra are two of the six people charged in connection with a Black Lives Matter protest that took place in San Luis Obispo on July 21.
During that protest, demonstrators blocked Highway 101 and police claimed some protesters committed acts of vandalism.
In drone footage just released by Grocott's attorney, Vincent Barrientos, the driver of the BMW can be seen getting into a verbal altercation before driving into a person on a bicycle, then attempting to continue onto Highway 101, hitting a person in a yellow shirt, identified by Barrientos as Grocott.
Seconds later, a person identified as Lastra is seen throwing his skateboard at the car in what he said was an attempt to get the vehicle to stop.
Following the incident, the California Highway Patrol released photos seeking to identify the people involved, saying the protesters attacked the vehicle.
At the time, Capt. Greg Klingenberg, CHP San Luis Obispo-area Commander, told KSBY News, "One of them jumped on the hood of the vehicle. The other, after the gentleman had then jumped off the hood of the vehicle, the vehicle then had a path to leave the area and as they were leaving, another person took their skateboard and hit the rear window of the vehicle as it was leaving."
CHP reported that glass from the broken window fell onto a four-year-old boy who was seated in the back seat.
Barrientos says the drone video was taken by the San Luis Obispo Police Department and he acquired it as part of his case. He says the video proves the CHP lied to the community.
"We have a problem as a society when law enforcement - whom we trust, who is meant to protect us - is going on television lying, especially when they have video evidence they could give to the public and the public can view for themselves and make their own informed decision," Barrientos said.
Barrientos also released partial text from the California Highway Patrol's interviews with the BMW driver in which he allegedly told officers, "I am about to go 100 miles per hour through that mother******* retarded stupid a** crowd" and "These lame f****, I should have brought my glock."
Charges have not been filed against the driver, who has only been referred to in court documents as "John Doe." Law enforcement says he started receiving threats following the incident and his identity is being protected.
Grocott and Lastra are both facing charges for their roles in the incident.
Lastra is charged with false imprisonment and felony vandalism.
Grocott is facing three charges of false imprisonment.
On the night of the protest, Grocott described the collision to KSBY News.
"That's when I ended up on his hood, holding on next to the windshield wipers as other protesters gathered around to stop him," he said, adding that the driver was yelling profanities at the protesters, telling them to get out of the way, and driving onto the shoulder of the highway.
Barrientos says in a letter to the California Highway Patrol that the driver should be arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.
"No rational person thinks it's okay to drive your car into another person because you're in a hurry to check into a hotel while you're on vacation in San Luis Obispo County, and that's why we're demanding law enforcement arrests the driver of this car," he said.
The attorney representing Lastra, Brian Ford, said in a statement:
I am familiar with the video and statements cited in Mr. Barrientos' letter, and I am fully supportive of his calls for justice. However, I believe those materials clearly establish that the BMW driver committed the crime of a 1st Degree Attempted Murder (Penal Code section 664/187(a)(1)), in that he intentionally, and with malice afforethought, attempted but failed to kill Sam Grocott. The failure of District Attorney Dan Dow's Office to take any legal action at all against this individual smacks of injustice and corruption.
KSBY News reached out to the California Highway Patrol for comment. Officer Mike Poelking of the San Luis Obispo CHP office said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Attorneys for Tianna Arata, who police identified as the protest leader, requested a gag order against the CHP back in October of 2020. In the document, attorneys pointed to several Facebook and Instagram posts they believe created "blatantly false narratives and prejudicial misinformation."
The San Luis Obispo Police Department says it will not be making a statement on this issue because the CHP is the investigating agency.
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office released the following statement Thursday evening:
The District Attorney’s office is confident that the facts and circumstances surrounding Mr. Grocott’s arrest will be fully and fairly revealed in court once the matter is tried to a jury of our community members. The District Attorney will not respond to the non-fact based rhetoric of Mr. Grocott’s counsel. In fact, the California Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit any attorney involved in the litigation of a case from making a statement the attorney reasonable knows will be disseminated to the public and that has a substantial likelihood of prejudicing the case. This includes not only statements by an individual attorney, but the public release of evidence outside of the court process that poses the same threat to due process of law. The rules of professional responsibility are intended to assure the fair application and due process of law for all parties. These rules apply equally to prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys.
KSBY News also reached out to San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon and members of the San Luis Obispo City Council for comment but have not yet heard back.
Grocott is expected to be back in court on this issue on March 3. Barrientos says he plans to file paperwork to dismiss the charges.