SAN JOSE — A San Jose police officer has been charged with repeatedly punching a woman during an alleged road-rage confrontation on the side of Interstate 680 this past summer, in an off-duty encounter during which he tried to call for police backup, authorities said.
George Brown, 37, has been identified as the off-duty officer involved in the July 24 fight on the freeway shoulder near the McKee Road exit. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that Brown has been charged with felony assault under the color of authority, misdemeanor battery, and misdemeanor child endangerment.
The case was investigated by the DA’s office and California Highway Patrol and includes allegations that during the encounter Brown got out of his car and identified himself as an SJPD officer to the other motorist. At one point, he called police dispatchers and asked for patrol units to respond to his location, requesting a Code 3 response — which is reserved for urgent emergencies that authorize officers to activate their lights and sirens.
Brown, who state records show joined the San Jose Police Department in 2015, has been on paid administrative leave since the summer, after an investigation into the fight was launched and determined he faced potential criminal liability.
“It is disappointing that an officer – on or off duty – would act in such a reckless and violent way,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “A higher standard of behavior is not a suggestion or a request. It is built into the badge.”
Also in a statement, San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said an internal investigation for Brown is underway and will be completed after the criminal case is adjudicated.
“I assure you that this officer will be held accountable for any law for policy or violations if they have occurred,” Mata said. “These allegations defy everything I stand for and have no place in our organization.”
According to investigators, Brown was off duty driving a Ford Explorer and traveling with a male friend and a child relative around 8 p.m. on the night in question, when he narrowly avoided a collision with the driver of a Ford Flex near a southbound Interstate 280 on-ramp.
That escalated to the two motorists driving aggressively near each other, and a woman riding in the Flex threw a plastic bottle and hit the Explorer, investigators said. Soon after, Brown, while on the phone, “mouthed to the male driving the Flex to ‘pull over.’ ”
Both vehicles pulled over and by that point were now on Interstate 680, which is what southbound I-280 becomes after crossing Highway 101. Investigators say Brown blocked a lane of traffic to pull up alongside the Flex. Brown then reportedly called for an emergency police response, and in the meantime, Brown and the man riding with him got out of their vehicle, and so did a man and woman who were traveling in the Flex.
“Brown identified himself as an SJPD officer, and then without provocation the 220-pound officer punched the 5-foot-3-inch woman in the face, knocking her to the ground,” reads a summary from the DA’s office. “When she attempted to stand back up, Brown punched her again.”
Prosecutors allege that Brown then intervened in a fight between his friend and the man accompanying the woman, and soon after the fight broke up and both vehicles were gone by the time police arrived. Both the CHP and SJPD were notified about the encounter after the woman who Brown reportedly punched appeared at a local hospital seeking medical treatment.
The man riding with Brown, a Redwood City resident, was charged with misdemeanor battery.
During the investigation, prosecutors say they learned that the fight was partially recorded on a witness’ cell phone and also by a passing motorist who called 911 and whose Tesla also recorded parts of the encounter with its on-board cameras. The DA’s office has said that it has no immediate plans to publicly release any of the footage, citing the victims’ privacy. This news organization has filed a public-records request with the office seeking to obtain the video footage.
Check back later for updates to this story.