Sandy Summers is a mad man. It's hard to blame him.
Two weeks ago, after speaking at a City Council meeting, Summers, a candidate for the District 6 City Council seat, was handcuffed and detained by San Diego police officers. He was involuntarily admitted to a local hospital for a mental-health evaluation and said he was drugged against his will.
Now that he's out, Summers said he's shopping around for a lawyer and threatening to sue the city.
A former car salesman and U.S. Army veteran, Summers regularly speaks during the public-comment portion of City Council meetings-the weekly forum where attendees get three minutes to exercise their right to free speech-and is one of a cast of colorful characters who lambaste city officials. Summers' speeches are at the same time poetic and crude.
Summers' detainment followed a speech in which he accused Councilmembers Toni Atkins and Donna Frye of conspiring against him, asked Frye to withdraw from the election and support his candidacy and called a psychiatrist-not-so-coincidentally in attendance-a “booger monkey.”
Police detained Summers shortly after, but no one was aware of his ordeal until he returned to the podium last week.
The news sparked outrage amongst other City Council critics-who alleged Summers' civil rights had been violated and drew comparisons to strong-arm political tactics employed by communist China-and prompted an apparently perplexed City Council President Scott Peters to request an explanation from the police department, which he received Monday.
According to that response, written by Lt. J.A. Dean, members of the City Council, which has a long history with Summers, asked police to determine whether or not he poses a threat.
In June 2004, the police “prepared at least one felony threat case and a stalking case against Summers listing former Mayor Dick Murphy and his secretary as victims,” wrote Dean. Summers allegedly told the mayor's secretary that he had followed her and Murphy around town and that he could have “done anything he wanted to Murphy.” Both Murphy and his secretary declined to press charges, and the case was dropped.
Dean quoted Summers as allegedly saying, “I will pull them down from their high horses by their jugulars if need be. Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn,” and wrote that after speaking at one City Council meeting, Summers placed a large-caliber rifle bullet on the podium and walked away.
Summers told CityBeat he never followed Murphy, and the bullet wasn't a live round but a “piece of lead” that he awarded to police chief Bill Lansdowne as the recipient of the Barney Fife Bullet Award.
“It was part of my comedy routine, and everybody knew it,” Summers said. “If it was a live round, they would have arrested me right there.”
Summers said the police have terrorized him ever since he attempted to report a case of police brutality he witnessed in 1987. Months later, he said, the situation escalated when the SWAT team surrounded his house, gassed him and, upon his surrender, killed his dog. Summers said he was never charged with a crime in either instance but has been the subject of a crusade of persecution ever since, and he blames the City Council for ignoring the truth.
At press time, CityBeat was unable to reach a police spokesman to confirm details of the incident.
Last September, according to Dean's memo, Summers allegedly contacted both the Frye and Jerry Sanders mayoral campaigns, making “implied threats” against the candidates, and left threatening voicemail messages with then-acting mayor Toni Atkins.
Dean wrote that Summers told Frye “that if he was interrupted again, and Frye sat there silently, he would turn his attention to her... and ‘I will have you on the carpet and I will blast you with everything the spirits provide.'” Summers also called Atkins and “screamed at her that if she wouldn't help break the yolk of tyranny she must ‘Get the Fuck Out!'”
Dean opined that the phone messages “clearly violated” state law prohibiting the use of an electronic device to make obscene comments, threaten or annoy someone. No one was willing to file a criminal complaint, but a threat assessment was requested.
Dean looked into the possibility of filing a criminal case against Summers, listing the entire City Council as the victim, and the possibility of seeking a restraining order but learned “there was nothing the DA's office could do without a specific complaint.” He decided to ask Robert Ledermann, a doctor with the police department's Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, to evaluate Summers and see if he could be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility.
According to Dean, Ledermann interviewed Summers at his home and found “he didn't want to hurt himself nor anyone else” and ”was not committable... at that time.” Ledermann persuaded Summers to agree to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and seek professional psychiatric counseling at a veterans hospital. Ledermann told Dean he would conduct a follow-up evaluation with Summers in the coming weeks but failed to do so.
Asked whether he has a drinking problem or mental-health issues, Summers told CityBeat, “Ulysses S. Grant, Betty Ford and I all stopped drinking a long time ago,” and that “Abraham Lincoln was bipolar.”
Asked if he'd ever hurt anybody, Summers said he “wouldn't hurt a fly.”
“I'd be afraid I might squash a council member,” he said. “Nobody needs to be afraid of me. I want them to live long lives so they can wallow in the shame and humiliation they have created for themselves.”
Nearly six months after Ledermann's visit, the police received information that Summers had “sent harassing e-mails to... Atkins and DA Bonnie Dumanis,” Dean wrote.
Dean called Ledermann, who agreed to meet with Summers at the March 21 City Council meeting as part of the ongoing threat-assessment investigation. No one attempted to schedule an appointment with Summers.
According to Dean's memo, Ledermann and a police detective observed Summers at the City Council meeting “for about 20 minutes prior to his turn to speak” and he “appeared very agitated... could not sit or stand still and was fidgeting, bouncing his legs and shaking his hands.”
“Summers repeatedly stood up, sat down, stood up, walked out of chambers to the foyer to get a drink of water and back to his seat.” Summers then gave his speech, calling Ledermann a “booger monkey.”
“At the conclusion of Summers' three-minute speech,” Dean wrote, “Dr. Ledermann told me [he] had observed Summers enough, [and] he did not need to interview Summers in private.”
Summers was then approached by the detective, Ledermann and a uniformed officer, who accompanied him to a security kiosk, where he was handcuffed, searched and detained and later driven to a local hospital where he was involuntarily admitted for psychiatric evaluation.
Dean wrote that Summers was accepted by the hospital for treatment and evaluation, which he expected to last as long as 14 days. Summers was released four days later.
After speaking during public comment on Tuesday, Summers said he didn't think Dean's memo was credible.
“They're trying to sabotage my election and reputation,” he said. “They're full of shit.”