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Attorney agrees to represent Black man punched by police during arrest in La Jolla

Jesse Evans and community member Amie Zamudio embrace as civil-rights activist Shane Harris speaks in La Jolla.
Jesse Evans and La Jolla resident and homelessness advocate Amie Zamudio embrace as Shane Harris, president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, speaks during a news conference May 18.
(Kristian Carreon)

An attorney has agreed to represent Jesse Evans, a homeless Black man who was punched and arrested by two San Diego police officers in La Jolla last week. Both she and an activist working with Evans said May 18 that they are pressing for prosecutors to decline to bring criminal charges in the case.

A bystander recorded cellphone footage of Evans’ arrest near a busy intersection near UC San Diego the morning of May 12.

It happened at 9 a.m. May 12 at La Jolla Village Drive and Torrey Pines Road. Police say officers contacted the man about urinating in public.

Evans, 34, said two police officers stopped him as he unclasped his pants to urinate close to some trees. The confrontation escalated and Evans was wrestled to the ground, where the officers punched him repeatedly in his face and legs.

Evans was jailed on suspicion of offenses including battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. The footage caught media attention, and many community members rallied around Evans. A Police Department spokesman said the internal affairs unit is investigating the incident.

On May 18, the Rev. Shane Harris called a curbside news conference to introduce Marlea Dell’Anno as Evans’ attorney. Harris, president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, called on prosecutors to decline to file criminal charges against Evans.

“Jesse Evans shouldn’t have been treated the way he was,” Harris said.

Evans, who also was at the news conference, said he had not urinated and should not have been stopped in the first place.

“Where I stand is, if I haven’t broken any law, why would a cop try to arrest me?” he said.

SDPD officials contended that Evans’ refusal to cooperate with the officers led to the scuffle.

"[Evans] would not stop to speak with officers; therefore an officer held the man to detain him,” the department said in a statement May 13. “Despite the officers’ repeatedly telling the man to stop resisting, [he] would not comply.”

A couple of people interrupted the May 18 news conference with shouting and name calling, and the event ended before Dell’Anno had a chance to speak. In a phone call later, she said her client is not interested in money. For Evans, she said, “this is an issue of man’s humanity to man.”

Jesse Evans and attorney Marlea Dell’Anno walk to a news conference in La Jolla on May 18.
Jesse Evans and attorney Marlea Dell’Anno walk to a news conference in La Jolla on May 18.
(Kristian Carreon)

Dell’Anno’s LinkedIn page describes her as the chief executive of Dell’Anno Law Firm in San Diego since January 2017.

She is a former assistant city attorney who has sued the city on an employment complaint.

In a social media post May 17, she wrote of the Evans case: “Hard to imagine identifying someone as 5150 [code for a person with a mental disorder] from a moving car ... the ‘logic’ appears to be Black guy + black clothing + walking in La Jolla = homeless = 5150 = we can kick his ass for no reason.”

In the phone interview, the attorney said Evans’ priorities include “a commitment for change in San Diego” to provide more public bathrooms.

Dell’Anno said her client — whom she described not as a “transient” but a member of the La Jolla community — has been “overwhelmed” by the community support and “had no idea that anyone cared about him this much.”

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.