Sukey Lewis and Thomas Peele, KQED News and Bay Area News Group
In one of the first revelations under Senate Bill 1421, California's new police transparency law, records showed a Rio Vista police officer put distorted information into police reports to trump up the charges against Jenks. That officer, Natalie Rafferty, now faces termination. The records revealed details of the city's internal affairs investigation into Rafferty’s conduct during and after Jenks' Sept. 22 arrest.
Jenks faced six misdemeanors for unlawful 911 calls, resisting arrest and battery on the two officers who arrested her after going to her house in response to Jenks' 911 call. Thursday, Judge Terrye Davis dismissed all charges at the request of prosecutors.
“We became aware of the case through your reporting,” Blair Goss of the law office of Douglas A. Goss, which represented Jenks pro bono, said of the story that appeared on KQED and in Bay Area News Group papers. The law firm has also filed a civil claim against the city on Jenks' behalf.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Sharon Henry said prosecutors, too, learned about the internal affairs case only by reading the reporting. She said that after prosecutors found out Jenks' arrest was the subject of an internal affairs investigation that resulted in discipline, the case couldn't go forward and charges were dismissed.
Jenks called 911 seven times during the last week of September to report that her car alarm was going off and other disturbances outside her house. Each time police arrived, they did not discover any emergency. So, Rio Vista Officer Natalie Rafferty and her former partner, Man Ly, came up with a plan to arrest Jenks the next time she called 911.
When Jenks again called around 3 a.m. on Sept. 22, the two Rio Vista officers showed up to arrest her.
A video of the incident shows Jenks sitting down on the ground, wailing and kicking as officers tried to place her in handcuffs. During the struggle, Rafferty’s K-9, Rio, appeared in the darkness and clamped down on Jenks’ arm. The investigation upheld Rafferty's explanation that a button on her belt that opened a door to her police car was accidentally hit during the struggle, releasing the dog.
It is illegal to harass the emergency response system, but the internal affairs investigation found Jenks actually believed there was an emergency. The internal investigation also found that Rafferty put false information in police reports to bolster a suggested felony charge against Jenks, including that she had injured the officers by biting them. Rafferty and Ly submitted photos of alleged bites, but an investigator found the claim that the woman’s bites hurt them was “patently false.”
Rafferty’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. City officials didn’t immediately respond to questions about Rafferty’s status with the Police Department. She was served with a notice of termination on Jan. 16.
Jenks said Monday she is relieved her criminal case is over. She suffers from nerve damage to her arm and remains traumatized, said her boyfriend, David O’Reilly.
“She's still having episodes where she wakes me up in the middle of night with her moaning because she's dreaming, having nightmares about the dog attacking her still,” O'Reilly said. “And so we're still dealing with a lot of negatives from this whole episode, which hopefully we'll be able to get cured.”
Alex Emslie of KQED News contributed to this report.
This story was reported in collaboration with the Bay Area News Group and Investigative Studios, an independent nonprofit news organization affiliated with the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley.