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SLO city employee put on leave after video release of bar assault 

The punches landed suddenly and ferociously, and were captured on video.

Camille Chavez and Isaac McCormack of Santa Maria were sitting together at the bar at Mr. Rick's in Avila Beach on May 28, 2016—the day of the Tequila Festival.

A stranger standing next to them at the bar, his back turned, repeatedly leaned into Chavez's space. After several instances of this, Chavez leaned back against the man—Chris Olcott, a building inspector for the city of San Luis Obispo.

Olcott quickly turned around and struck Chavez in the head with a swing of his elbow, knocking her to the floor unconscious. Olcott then punched McCormack in the face several times, before bar security intervened, tackling Olcott to the floor.

click to enlarge ON LEAVE The city of San Luis Obispo placed one of its building inspectors, Chris Olcott, on paid administrative leave following the April 14 release of a video documenting his 2016 assault against a woman in a bar. - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • ON LEAVE The city of San Luis Obispo placed one of its building inspectors, Chris Olcott, on paid administrative leave following the April 14 release of a video documenting his 2016 assault against a woman in a bar.

"Totally out of the blue," McCormack told New Times about the altercation. "I'd never seen him, never talked to him, he was a complete stranger to me. Before I could even think, we were being attacked."

Bar security footage, now nearly three years old, of the assault was made public on April 14 by CalCoastNews on YouTube, and it circulated quickly to online viewers locally and beyond. McCormack verified the events caught on camera to New Times.

In February, Olcott pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery charges, and was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years of probation. SLO County prosecutors had dropped felony charges, after a trial in 2018 resulted in a 7-5 hung jury.

"I don't know what the jury saw that everybody else isn't seeing," McCormack said.

In a statement to New Times, District Attorney Dan Dow said the jury was "hopelessly deadlocked ... even after reviewing the video of the battery numerous times."

"This illustrates that no matter how chilling video evidence might be, a jury must still weigh and evaluate all of the other evidence before reaching a verdict," Dow said. "After considering the significance of the earlier trial ... the defendant's willingness to plead guilty ... and that he had no prior criminal history, we made the decision that the plea agreement would serve the interests of justice in this case."

Olcott's attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, could not be reached by press time.

In the wake of the video's release, the city of SLO placed Olcott on paid administrative leave, "pending completion of a confidential personnel investigation." SLO officials said they had not seen the video prior to April 14.

"We take these matters seriously. The safety and security of the community we serve, and our employees is of utmost importance to us," SLO City Manager Derek Johnson said in a statement on April 16. "As the criminal proceedings in this matter have finally come to a conclusion, and additional information has been made publicly available, the city will thoroughly and quickly investigate the record to determine appropriate employment actions."

McCormack said he and Chavez, a special education teacher at Ernest Righetti High School, suffered concussions and other serious injuries in the assault. The most lasting, he said, is mental trauma.

"I still think about it all the time," McCormack said. "Fatal injuries could have come from this. We're lucky that's all that happened." Δ

Correction: This article was updated to correct a typo to clarify that Olcott's attorney could not be reached by press time.

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