SAN FRANCISCO–On Tuesday, August 4, Deputy Sheriff Michael Robert Lewelling, 34, was convicted by a jury of his peers of felony assault on a homeless man.

The incident occurred at San Francisco General Hospital on November 3, 2014. Fernando Guanill, who was 59 at the time, claimed to be chronically homeless. According to reports, he had an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon to schedule knee surgery. He was in the emergency room, waiting to be called, when Deputy Lewelling arrived on the scene. A nurse allegedly asked Lewelling to remove Guanill from the premises, as she claimed he had been verbally abusive.

According to Lewelling’s report on the incident, Guanill attempted to assault Lewelling with his cane. In self-defense, Lewelling then pushed Guanill into a chair and choked him. Guanill was then arrested.

During the Sheriff Department’s investigation, they reviewed security camera footage to ascertain the details of the event. The footage showed that Lewelling’s report may not have been factually accurate.

According to the footage, Guanill was seated–many accounts describe him as sleeping or dozing–when Lewelling approached him. The two exchanged some words, after which Guanill was seen getting up from his chair, using his cane for assistance. The footage shows that Guanill was then in the process of leaving the waiting room when Lewelling allegedly used excessive force to pull him down into a waiting room chair. Lewelling then apparently began to choke Guanill prior to placing him under arrest.

Deputy Sheriff Michael Robert Lewelling has been convicted of felony assault and is currently on unpaid administrative leave from the Sheriff's Department
Deputy Sheriff Michael Robert Lewelling has been convicted of felony assault.

Lewelling was arrested in December 2014. He is now on unpaid administrative leave from the department. He is still considered an employee of the department, but he is subject to disciplinary action following the department’s internal affairs investigation.

In addition to assault, Lewelling was also charged with perjury because of his inaccurate report. The jury did not find him guilty of this charge. The defense argued that Lewelling did not intentionally create a false report. According to their argument, Lewelling felt threatened by Guanill and acted accordingly.

Lewelling’s sentencing is scheduled for October 7. He may be sentenced to up to three years in state prison.