By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The attorney representing a Black Lives Matter activist facing misdemeanor false imprisonment charges has released previously withheld drone footage of a car colliding with a protester on Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo and another demonstrator smashing the back window of the vehicle with a skateboard.
Vincent Barrientos, a San Francisco-based defense attorney representing activist Sam Grocott, alleges a “violent, racist, white male” tried to run over his client. Barrientos also claims local law enforcement have deliberately withheld facts about the case and have lied to the public, due in part to San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow’s “white power agenda.”
Dow rejects the allegations and argues that Barrientos is breaching his professional code of conduct.
On July 21, 2020, activist Tianna Arata led approximately 300 protesters onto Highway 101, blocking all lanes in both directions for nearly an hour. During the incident, the driver of a silver BMW sedan attempted to maneuver around the protesters.
Drone footage shows the car driving on the shoulder of the highway and veering slightly onto the median. Grocott steps into the path of the car as the driver is trying to get around demonstrators.
The driver does not stop, collides with Grocott and keeps driving. Grocott appears to lean and fall onto the hood of the car, where he lies for a few seconds prior to getting off and landing on his feet as the driver accelerates away.
As Grocott was lying on the hood of sedan, Robert Lastra Jr. comes from behind and smashes the back window of the car with a skateboard. Additionally, as Grocott is getting off the vehicle, another protester strikes the passenger side of the car with a skateboard.
Though local law enforcement previously released other drone footage of the events of July 21, police did not release the footage obtained by Barrientos. The defense attorney claims Dow and San Luis Obispo Area CHP Capt. Greg Klingberg have been lying to the public about the altercation that occurred on the highway.
“By intentionally choosing not to release the video footage, they were able to provide false statements to the press and control and shape the narrative to fit their personal agenda,” Barrientos stated in a news release.
The defense attorney also sent a letter to Klingberg demanding he arrest the driver for assault with a deadly weapon and contact local media, saying he lied to the public, or else resign.
In turn, the district attorney’s office released a statement on Tuesday saying it would not respond to Barrientos’s non-fact based rhetoric:
“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 reasonably 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.”