A viral video shows a University of California Police Department officer in Berkeley taking money from a man’s wallet, identified only as “Juan.” Juan appears to be the victim of civil forfeiture after selling hot dogs at a Cal game without a permit. Civil forfeiture was made illegal without a criminal conviction in California in 2016 when Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 443 into law. According to Forbes, “agencies will first need to obtain any criminal conviction before they could receive equitable-sharing payments from forfeited real estate, vehicles, boats and cash valued at under $40,000.”
In regards to the Juan incident, Los Angeles resident, and UC Berkeley alum, Martin Flores shared the video on Facebook on Saturday. It soon went viral. In the footage, Flores asks UCPD Officer Sean Aranas about why he is taking Juan’s money.
“We’ll take it to the judge and the judge can decide whether or not it’s right,” Aranas answers. “He doesn’t have a permit.”
KTVU reports that Juan’s money was booked into evidence, per UCPD.
Flores has since started a GoFundMe for Juan, which has reached over $33k. There was some speculation that Juan would be hard to locate to receive the funds because of his possible immigration status, but Flores has since updated the GoFundMe that Juan has been located. Flores writes, “We will ensure that Juan has his personal, legal and professional matters addressed.”
UC Berkeley student Vicky Zamarripa has also taken to social media to call for Officer Aranas’ firing with a petition that has received nearly 11,000 signatures.
However, according to one Berkeleyside reader, Officer Aranas’ actions may have been nothing new. “Evidently when doing illegal sales on UC Property of anything the money is confiscated,” commented a Berkeley local on Facebook. “At the very start of [the] video he does take the cash…. I know an illegal t shirt vendor and that’s what they do.”
Another top commenter adds that the police intervention is fair, saying, “He went through the wallet because the vendor didn’t understand anything and handed him his whole wallet. If you want a bunch of unpermitted vendors selling God knows what made in God only knows conditions then you have tough stomachs!! Also UC has exclusive contracts to vendors who pay lots of money which then goes into UC sports program…….. So all of you indignant folks should say Allow vendors and Cut the UC sports budget.”