Crime - Sacto 911

Past arrests by officer facing drug and weapons charges may be under scrutiny

Sacramento police are likely investigating past arrests made by an officer who was charged last month with felony weapons- and drug-related crimes.

Officer Isaac Richard Knutila, 45, was arrested Nov. 4 at the Hilton Sacramento Arden West Hotel in possession of “usable” amounts of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin as well as his .40-caliber duty pistol, according to the department and information obtained by The Sacramento Bee through a Public Records Act request.

Knutila was later found to have possession of an illegal .223-caliber Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle, police said.

Knutila is a 16-year veteran of the force and worked on patrol, according to the department.

The city recently declined a request by The Bee for arrest records and reports for drug-related charges in which Knutila was the arresting officer, citing those documents as part of an ongoing investigation, possibly indicating the department is examining Knutila’s on-duty conduct in cases that involve drugs.

“The records you have requested consist of police incident reports and investigatory records that may interfere with the investigation if released,” the city’s refusal letter said.

Knutila’s defense lawyer, Michael Wise, said he had “not been informed” of investigations of past arrests, but “it would be standard protocol for any officer given the alleged conduct.”

Department spokesman Bryce Heinlein said he did not have information on the “depth or scope” of the internal affairs investigation, and the city attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

UC Davis law professor Floyd Feeney said it would be “good management” by the city to conduct a review of arrests by Knutila.

“You’d like to know if this is new or does this infection run deeper than we already know about,” Feeney said. “A careful administration would want to do that whether they had some evidence of a prior problem or not.”

Knutila was initially charged with four drug-related misdemeanor counts and a single felony charge of being in possession of drugs and a loaded firearm simultaneously. At a news conference hours after the arrest, the department described the charges as “prostitution-related,” but no prostitution or solicitation charges have been filed.

Hilton general manager Sami Qureshi said Knutila was a registered guest at the hotel when he was arrested but was sitting alone in the lobby when undercover officers approached him. The arresting officers informed hotel staff members of their intention before approaching Knutila, and “quietly arrested him and walked him out,” Qureshi said.

Qureshi said hotel records indicated it was Knutila’s first stay at the recently renovated location.

Interim police Chief Brian Louie said at the news conference that police began investigating Knutila on Oct. 13 after another local agency tipped them off that the patrolman was spotted in an area known for prostitution. The department declined to name the agency that spotted Knutila.

The misdemeanor charges were later dropped, but a second felony weapons charge was added in connection with the rifle.

The rifle was found during a search after the arrest, Wise said following Knutila’s first court appearance at the Sacramento County Courthouse on Nov. 14. Wise also said at the time that Knutila has “an addiction issue.”

Knutila is free on bail and is set to return to court Dec. 15 for further arraignment. He has not entered a plea.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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