A woman’s claims of excessive force by the Pismo Beach Police Department have gone viral since she took her case to a fundraising website to fight a public intoxication arrest.
Andrea Nicole Hansen, 32, of Grover Beach, claims she called 911 for medical assistance in October after suffering several seizures only to be arrested for public intoxication, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer, all misdemeanors.
Hansen claims responding officers denied her medical attention — which she said she can prove with cell phone footage — and used unnecessary force during her arrest, resulting in minor injuries.
Police deny the allegations — and say they have body camera footage to prove it. On Nov. 7, Hansen pleaded not guilty to all charges. On the advice of her attorney, David Vogel, Hansen gave only limited information during interviews with The Tribune.
However, on the fundraising website GoFundMe.com, a page exists asking for donations for Hansen’s defense. Whether or not she is convicted, Hansen could pursue a civil lawsuit against the department.
The webpage, which had raised $2,991 of its stated $5,000 goal from 91 people as of Tuesday afternoon, is under the name Andrea Starr, Hansen’s Facebook moniker.
The page claims that Hansen suffers from juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, a rare form of epilepsy.
According to Hansen’s online account of events, on the night of Oct. 11, she left a Pismo Beach restaurant and pub and began walking when she started having seizures. When she regained consciousness, she called 911 for medical help. When police arrived instead of an ambulance, she questioned why an ambulance wasn’t being sent. She remained disoriented and slurred her words due to the recent seizures, the page reads.
“For an uneducated cop, this could cause the appearance of intoxication,” it reads. The page says that officers used “unnecessary force” on Hansen, resulting in a sprained ankle and wrist, and cuts and bruises all over her body.
Moreover, the page reads, Hansen began convulsing in a County Jail holding cell due to lack of prescribed medication during several hours in custody.
Hansen said Tuesday that she stands by the information on the webpage. She further said her cell phone video shows officers refusing to call for medical assistance until she stops “being so hostile.” She declined to show the video or post it online.
A police report by Pismo Beach Officer Leslie Stout tells a different story:
Stout wrote that he arrived at the intersection of Park Avenue and Cypress Road at about 11:30 p.m. to find Hansen sitting on the sidewalk. He reported that Hansen began yelling at him and he activated his body video recorder.
Hansen asked why he was bothering her and began recording him with her cell phone, telling him she had epilepsy.
Stout and his partner tried to calm Hansen, who allegedly argued with them to lower their flashlights due to her condition. After he asked about her medical condition, Stout then requested an ambulance.
Stout suspected Hansen was intoxicated due to her slurred speech and the smell of alcohol. He wrote that as they waited for an ambulance, he determined Hansen was not able to care for her own safety and arrested her for public intoxication.
She continued to be combative, he wrote, scraping her own knees, kicking his leg, and continuing the behavior at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo before being booked into County Jail.
The police report doesn’t say what treatment she received at the hospital. Hansen’s online account includes a letter to her from Sierra Vista that says she was in the emergency room for an hour and showed no signs of seizure activity during medical examinations.
Pismo Beach Cmdr. Mark Miller said Monday that department officials had reviewed both officers’ body camera footage and cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.
“I can tell you that there’s no truth to any of it,” Miller said, adding that officers’ footage will tell the whole story. “It sheds a lot of light on (the incident). It’s unbiased.”
Miller said that he could not provide the footage or discuss the case because it is ongoing. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said the department is currently reviewing Hansen’s time in custody but had no comment because no complaint had been filed with the Sheriff’s Office.
Content from Hansen’s GoFundMe.com page has since been published on several anti-police news websites such as Cop Block, Police State USA and The Free Thought Project.
Though she was advised by Vogel not to comment, Hansen told The Tribune Monday that online coverage of her story had spun out of control. She said that she never contacted any publication about the incident and had not spoken to the media prior to Monday.
Hansen said she does not condone recent posts by “hardcore activists” apparently inspired by her story calling for violence against the Police Department on various Facebook pages. According to court records, Hansen has no criminal convictions in the county.
She is due in San Luis Obispo Superior Court Thursday for a pre-trial hearing.