Officer Surwilo Gives ‘the Other Side of the Story’ About Jimmy Maroutis and the Police

by on February 27, 2015 · 13 comments

in Civil Rights, Media, Ocean Beach

By Lois Lane

On Wednesday February 25, Community Relations Officer David Surwilo made his usual presentation of “what’s new” at the OB Town Council meeting.

Always charming and disarming, this time he had a complaint instead of answering them:

The OB Rag had not fairly represented what happened on February 14 when it announced that a well- known-Ocean beach local (Jimmy Maroutis) had been arrested for stabbing a woman in Point Loma.

According to the police, two witnesses had identified Mr. Maroutis as the perpetrator, which precipitated the contact. The assailant had a baby stroller for his possessions, something Maroudis occasionally also uses, and this may have caused what seems to be now a condition of confusion.

Further in the article, a neighbor stated that the police told them he (Mr. Maroutis) was not arrested, but taken in for questioning. The police (you may have guessed by now) didn’t really care for the use of the words “Arrested by Police” in the headline.

According to the police, there were other actions going on at the same time. When the police contacted Mr. Maroutis, a well-known paparazzi free-lance photographer interfered. He attempted to get Mr. Maroutis to confess, so that he could record it on camera. In the ensuing confusion, the police officer determined that the interview could not continue at the location, which seems to be Mr. Maroutis’ home from all reports. He was taken to police headquarters, questioned, and returned to his home. He was never placed in a jail cell.

Although not discussed at the Town Council meeting, the OB Rag posted many comments from Marautis’ defenders who felt the issue could have been handled more sensitively. The Police responded, but for anyone who was not involved, it is still hard to figure out exactly what did happen or even what was reported to have happened.

Doesn’t sound like it was too pleasant an experience for Mr. Maroutis, but Officer Surwilo explained that the police officer handled a difficult situation under the existing protocol. So who did stab the woman who was driving down a Point Loma alley and got lost? Not yet known.

How to spell “Maroutis” still a little up in the air. There are still a few unreported issues about what was done and what should have been done.

Finally, Officer Surwilo reminded people that nobody contacted the Police Department for more information. They read about how people felt in the OB Rag!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Debra February 27, 2015 at 12:34 pm

I wrote a letter of complaint about the situation specifically to Chief Zimmerman, who delegated Lt.Weeden to respond. He more or less told me that the police acted appropriately. My major concern was the amount of embarrassment that Jimmy must’ve suffered as I know him to be a very kind, sensitive, proud man, whose life is hard enough as it is.
I just hope that maniac, who is running around stabbing people, is soon apprehended.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page February 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm

I also received a call from an Officer Jason Wheadon or Wheedon (sp?) (619-692-4860) in response to the email I sent the police chief. He had been assigned to call six or seven people who wrote in. His explanations were general and not very satisfactory but I give them credit for responding. One line in this article jumped out at me.

“According to the police, two witnesses had identified Mr. Maroutis as the perpetrator…”,

This was not what the officer said to me on the phone. He said two people called in saying they had seen a man who fit the description of the perpetrator, there is a world of difference here.

I pressed him on how anyone could mistake a man of Maroutis’s age and physical size with the described perpetrator, six feet tall with dark hair, and he admitted that the age difference was pretty disturbing. Maroutis is in his 70s. The Rag article mentioned that the officers who responded were not the one who originally responded to the incident and I asked him, if they had been given the correct description, how they could have made this mistake. His only real response was that a large number of his force now has a year or less of experience.

Ms. Lane wrote:
“Further in the article, a neighbor stated that the police told them he (Mr. Maroutis) was not arrested, but taken in for questioning.”

When someone sees a person cuffed and put into the back of squad car and driven away, I think they can be forgiven for assuming the person was arrested.

Ms. Lane wrote:
“When the police contacted Mr. Maroutis, a well-known paparazzi free-lance photographer interfered. He attempted to get Mr. Maroutis to confess, so that he could record it on camera.”

I asked the officer about this as well. I said the police have the right to detain a person who is interfering with an active police action and did not get a satisfactory answer why they didn’t handle this person better. He began to revert to a policy statement saying that they had sufficient cause to remove Maroutis from the situation and to take him to the Western Division. They blamed one person with a camera for how they handled the situation, which makes no sense to me. Do the police have any idea how the photographer got on the scene so quickly? I asked him why they didn’t just take Maroutis into his home to question him and he said they would have needed his permission. I said that Maroutis probably would have given that permission. They never asked.

Ms. Lane wrote:
“Doesn’t sound like it was too pleasant an experience for Mr. Maroutis, but Officer Surwilo explained that the police officer handled a difficult situation under the existing protocol.”

A difficult situation? A small old man in his 70s? If this is described as difficult, I wonder what adjectives the officer has for situations that really are tense and serious? That response was similar to the answer I got, they defended their actions saying they followed existing protocol as if it is an inflexible thing that allows them to detain a person who was clearly misidentified. There was no apology or any suggestion that it could have been handled better.

Ms. Lane wrote:
“Finally, Officer Surwilo reminded people that nobody contacted the Police Department for more information. They read about how people felt in the OB Rag!”

Well, that simply isn’t true because the officer who called me and the six or seven other people was responding to people who wanted more information. The folks who wrote may have couched their comments as complaints but that illustrated that they wanted more information.

I find it amazing that, as Ms. Lane opened with, Officer Surwilo was complaining to the people at the meeting who were upset at what was clearly a police mistake. I would have expected to hear that they looked into what happened, discussed it with the officers, and made some changes as a result. They have not provided a satisfactory answer how a 70 plus year old, gray haired man about 5’ 8” tall could be mistaken for a much younger man six feet tall with DARK hair. The community and Maroutis deserve an apology, not a complaint.

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Lois Lane February 27, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Thank you for the additional information. To clarify, in context, Officer Surwilo probably meant that nobody from the OB Rag had contacted the Police Department for the article. He did not specifically state that there was no contact from the community. My apologies.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page March 2, 2015 at 8:11 am

No need to apologize, Ms. Lane, we appreciate the reportage. I surmised what you did but it does illustrate that the officer was not clear in what he said. If he meant no one from the OB Rag contacted the police department, he should have said that.

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Scott Chasen February 27, 2015 at 6:15 pm

jimmy is harmless , glad to hear people are watching out for him

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Debbie February 27, 2015 at 6:49 pm

I saw five maybe six cars in front of Jimmy’s house. Really, was that necessary?

No!

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Debbie February 27, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Police cars ….. for clarification

They day they picked him up.

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Jim February 27, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Who is the well known photographer?

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Chuck February 28, 2015 at 7:53 am

Is it protocol for police to get a DNA swab, as they did with Mr. Maroutis, in a simple non-arrest interview? And are we still wasting time and tax payers money paying a overpriced state laboratory to process the swab even after it is clear Mr. Maroutis was not the perpetraour of this crime?

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie February 28, 2015 at 8:45 am

Personally, I think Officer David Surwilo is one of the finest officers on the SDPD. I often ask him why he doesn’t upgrade his rank and his response is that he loves what he does; he trains captains. He is a great community relations officer. They need more like him.

Having said that, the OB Rag stands by our original article. Jimmy Maroutis’ lawyer told me over the phone that he had been arrested. I’m a lawyer also and when another lawyer tells me his client has just been arrested, I have to believe them – as I was not at the scene. Other witnesses also described that Jimmy was arrested.

Later, I spoke to Jimmy himself, and he confirmed that he had been arrested. He told me he had been handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police SUV. He said he was taken in for questioning about the stabbing and place in a cell.

There are standards in criminal law about what constitutes an “arrest”. If the person alleged to have been arrested felt that they could not leave – that’s an arrest. If a person is handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle – that’s an arrest. Taken unwillingly away from your home, handcuffed, is an arrest.

Now, police many times will detain someone – for future search or questioning. But if a detention is against that person’s will and they cannot leave on their own, that’s an arrest – whatever you call it.

Okay, so Jimmy was released not too soon later. And not charged. He still was arrested. There still is an arrest report that will become part of his record.

One of the key reasons this sort of thing happened is because of the quick turnover of individual cops from the community. The rotation used to be 6 months – not certain what it is now. And with all the desertions from the SDPD, rotations – especially of captains – becomes higher.

Back in the stoned age in the 1970s, OB had a grassroots group called the OB Human Rights Committee (HRC) that lobbied and mobilized against police stops without cause, called “F.I.s” f- or field interrogations which the SDPD used to do – ; they were were finally declared unconstitutional and stopped. Plus HRC lobbied for longer rotation periods for the OB beat cop so they could get to know the community and the characters in it – people like Maroutis. If the cops had been around long enough, they couldn’t have missed him in his daily bike rides around parts of OB, and they would have known that he never travels up the hill to the area where the stabbing took place.

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Sarah February 28, 2015 at 12:23 pm

I am interested in the “well-known” photographer. Who is it? Is it the guy with the video camera that seems to listen to a scanner and then show up where ever there is police action in OB?

I’m not making a statement about whether or not people should be allowed to film police action, but I have noticed this particular person seems to be trying to instigate trouble.

Maybe someone should find him and interview him.

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Tom Cairns March 3, 2015 at 6:00 am

From the Point Loma High School alumni directory 2012, Jimmy’s name is spelled Maroudis. He was in the Class of 1957, and list’s his “occupation’ as “recycler household items”.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie March 3, 2015 at 3:02 pm

“Maroudis” – finally, after multiple spellings. thanks Tom.

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