Tale of the 911 tape
August 30, 2011
EDITORS NOTE: See The blue code, a copy of the 911 tape, Scott Cramer’s statement to police, and a listing of officer Cramer’s statement compared with the 911 tape at the bottom of this story.
By KAREN VELIE
An Atascadero woman screams, “stop, stop, please send someone,” to the 911 operator.
In the next room, caller Sarah Summers’ developmentally disabled stepson grapples with another man who has followed him to his father’s home after the stepson passed him on the road. Her 74-year-old husband James, undergoing chemotherapy, has just seen his son smash through the front storm door with a stranger.
The man wrestling with Summers’ stepson is off-duty San Luis Obispo Police Officer Scott Cramer.
Cramer would tell Atascadero police officers that he was not fighting with Summers, 50, and that he was maintaining his calm as he dealt with an aggressor.
Summers’ stepson, Scott, tells a different story, and a recently released 911 tape supports the disabled man’s account of the March 2010 altercation.
“Upon listening to the tape, you can tell this is an outraged irate driver, who is trespassing in an innocent family’s’ home, and dispensing his own variety of curbside instant justice, said Summers’ attorney James McKiernan who has filed suit against Cramer and the city of San Luis Obispo. “How does an officer unleash it on a hapless disabled individual after all of those years of training?”
Excerpts from the 911 tape support Summers’ account and call into question Cramer’s statement that he “spoke calmly” (Currently, a forensic sound studio technician is working to clarify some of the muffled statements on the 911 tape.)
Scott Summers: “Get your hands off me. Stop it. Get your hands off me.”
Scott Summers: “You know what, you are going to jail. I don’t care who you are.”
Cramer: “Oh, Screw you?
Scott Summers: “No, fuck you.”
Cramer: “Fuck you back. I can do whatever…”
Scott Summers: I want to see your badge.
Sarah Summers: “Yeah, I don’t know what happened prior to that it sound like some antagonizing is going on the road and…”
Operator: “So it sounds like – it’s like a road rage kind of thing.”
Sarah Summers: “It was – It was road rage kind of stuff and as when one thing led to another, and the next thing, you know, the guy comes down here to settle it out.”
On March 18, 2010, Scott Summers, who lives in a disabled housing facility, was driving an older model BMW he was loaned by the auto shop where his truck was being repaired.
Summers passed Cramer’s red truck on Old Morro Road East, a winding rural street. Cramer was driving with his 8-year-old. According to the lawsuit filed over the incident, Cramer began racing up to Summers’ bumper, falling back, and revving up and again getting bumper to bumper.
Summers made it to his parent’s house. A short time later, Cramer showed up.
Cramer said it was his son who pointed out Summers’ car, parked in front of a home. Cramer said he had not expected to find the driver of the car when he drove through the neighborhood looking for the vehicle.
But, several neighbors said Cramer had canvassed the neighborhood, going door to door asking about the BMW that passed him, Summers said.
Cramer came down the driveway to the house. Summers said he stepped outside, onto his parents’ porch, to find out what the man wanted.
Cramer allegedly began yelling at Summers, Summers said.
“He yelled, ‘You think you are someone special because you drive a BMW?’ ” Summers said.
Before he could answer, Summers said, Cramer punched him three times in the Adam’s apple, once in the side and than threw him through a closed storm door breaking out the glass and tearing the door from its hinges.
The 911 tape clearly shows Cramer was the aggressor, McKiernan said.
Cramer, though, told Atascadero police he was calm and that Summers was the aggressor. Cramer said Summers called him “a pussy,” pushed him and attempted to strike him.
Cramer also said in his statement, that after he noticed a woman in the house was on the phone, “I calmly explained to her that I was not fighting and I would release him as soon as he quit trying to kick me and fight with me.”
He then said he identified himself to Sarah Summers as a police officer and gave his address to her before leaving. The statements are not heard on the 911 tape.
The tape does have Cramer apologizing to Sarah Summers for his actions.
Scott Summers’ lawyer, McKiernan named both the city of San Luis Obispo and Cramer in a lawsuit he filed seeking $500,000 in damages.
“Our primary position is Scott Cramer was acting under color of law assaulting this man and explaining he is a police officer,” McKiernan said. “We have received two calls that cast suspicion that this is not the first time this has happened.”
The suit contends that the city of San Luis Obispo has a duty to hire, train and supervise officers to avoid the infliction of harm and excessive force on citizens. The police department, known for bringing ultimate fighting champion Chuck Liddel into the department to teach officers street-fighting techniques, is accused of not training and supervising officers in a fashion as to avoid harm and the use of excess force upon the public.
San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Jac Crawford has scheduled a case management hearing on Nov. 30.
The blue code
Public records regarding this incident have been kept from Summers and the media for more than a year, despite repeated requests.
Atascadero Police department supervisor, Ann Jutras, said that the department did not have to release the 911 tape because there was an ongoing investigation into the incident. She also said that the department was protecting the privacy rights of the victims.
However, both the 911 caller and alleged victim, Sarah and Scott Summers, had given their permission to have the tape released and the case had been closed for more than a year.
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office decided not to prosecute Cramer. Among the documents used by the district attorney’s office was an Atascadero supplemental police report which contains statements Cramer made.
The supplemental report paints Scott Summers as the aggressor even though the 911 audio tape appears to refute Cramer’s account of the altercation.
The district attorney’s office does not usually listen to 911 tapes when deciding whether to prosecute. The statute of limitations has now expired.
The original Atascadero police report, which consists of only a few sentences, said police responded to an altercation at a house where two men had argued over a traffic incident.
That report was given to Summers who requested a copy of the police report. But police did not give Summers the supplemental report which supported Cramer’s account.
A request to the district attorney’s office for the supplemental report was denied. Although officials in the office agreed that police reports are considered public records, they said they sent the Atascadero police supplemental report back to the department.
The district attorney’s office reported that it did not make a copy of the supplemental report, which was considered in deciding against prosecution.
Atascadero police refused to provide a copy of the supplemental report, saying that police reports are not public records.
But, as part of the discovery process in his lawsuit, Summers was able to get a copy of the 911 tape, the supplemental report and Cramer’s statement to police. Summers provided a copy to CalCoastNews which had sought the records for more than a year.
San Luis Obispo Police Officer Scott Cramer said in his statement to Atascadero police that, “My 20-years experience as a police officer leads me to believe his reactions to my calm demeanor indicate either an anger management issue or a mental health issue.”
On the 911 tape, Cramer is cursing, yelling at Summers for passing him and refusing to let go of Summers.
Cramer is heard yelling on the tape that Scott Summers was driving 80 mph in a section of winding road that measures less than four-tenths of a mile.
He would later say in his statement that he estimated Summers was driving between 65 to 70 mph in a 25 mph hour zone. However, the actual speed limit on Old Morro Road East is 55 mph.
Cramer said he repeatedly told Summers he did not want to fight him.
However, that statement is not heard on the tape.
Listen to the 911 audio tape
Read Officer Cramer’s sworn statement to the Atascadero Police Department.