A former Santa Clara Unified School District trustee was arrested Jan. 6 for allegedly threatening to kill a woman before hitting her with his vehicle in Morgan Hill—an incident that happened nearly a year prior to last week’s arrest.
Police booked Chris Stampolis, 53, of Santa Clara, on suspicion of two felony counts: making death threats and using his 2011 Buick SUV as a deadly weapon, according to authorities. Police issued a $50,000 warrant for Stampolis’ arrest just a couple months after the Jan. 8, 2019 clash in downtown Morgan Hill that led to his arrest.
Santa Clara Police Capt. Wahid Kazem said his agency only found out about the case a few days ago when a “citizen informant” tipped them off. Santa Clara officers located Stampolis in Sunnyvale and arrested him on the warrant from the incident that occurred a year earlier in Morgan Hill.
According to reports from the Morgan Hill Police Department, Stampolis was working as an Uber driver in January 2019 when Todd Gonzalez Lobdell, a San Jose police officer-turned-private eye, left a wallet and badge in the back seat of his car. Five days later, Lobdell’s domestic partner, local boutique owner Belinda Ettelbrick, arranged to meet Stampolis at Noah’s Bar in Morgan Hill to recover the wallet.
When Ettelbrick arrived at Noah’s, she said Stampolis refused to give her the wallet unless she signed some kind of papers. She said he then went back to the car before popping out again to ask, “Where’s the money?”
According to Ettelbrick, Stampolis claimed he made a deal with Lobdell to return his property for a finder’s fee, police reports say. Ettelbrick said she heard of no such arrangement and demanded the wallet. Stampolis allegedly refused and told her to back away—or else.
“Stampolis turns around and gets close to (Ettlebrick) and tells her that she can’t get near her or he was going to kill her,” according to the victim’s narrative as documented by the Morgan Hill Police Department.
When she asked again, she said he repeated his warning.
Ettelbrick told Stampolis she would call police if he left with the wallet and badge, according to the police reports. He told her to go right ahead, so she did. When a dispatcher asked for the SUV’s license plate number, police say Ettelbrick “jump(ed) in front of the vehicle,” which struck her left leg.
Two people witnessed the encounter. One of the witnesses—a friend of Stampolis’—told police that Stampolis did not strike the victim with his vehicle. Instead, she echoed Stampolis’ version of events, saying Ettelbrick blocked their departure.
Police say Stampolis accused Ettelbrick of stepping in front of his moving vehicle—twice. They said he wanted to “press false imprisonment charges” against her because of it, for “restricting his movement from leaving.”
Stampolis reportedly defended his actions by saying he didn’t feel comfortable leaving Lobdell’s wallet with anyone other than the man himself, or the folks at Uber’s San Jose office. Morgan Hill police say they offered to take the wallet off his hands, but that he refused. The officers summoned a sergeant to the scene who managed to persuade Stampolis to leave the wallet at the Morgan Hill police station.
Even though a woman had just accused him of assaulting her with his car, the police allowed Stampolis to drive himself to the station, where officers say he “demanded a property receipt.” Police asked for his ID in exchange, but he reportedly refused to comply and showed himself out.
Ettelbrick—who said she still limps from injuries sustained by the SUV hit, which left her right knee inflamed and her muscles “messed up”—seemed surprised to hear that the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office even filed charges.
“Nobody’s told me anything,” she said when reached by phone last week. “I still can’t get over the fact that those Morgan Hill officers let him walk out of the station after he tried to kill me.”
Stampolis—who’s out on supervised release on his own recognizance and due in court Feb. 4—denied any wrongdoing. He said he has a 13-minute video of the encounter that disputes Ettelbrick’s claim and offered to make it public if he gets the go-ahead from his attorney. “The video absolutely, without question, refutes any concept that I hit this person,” he insisted.
In a follow-up email, Stampolis forwarded correspondence from his insurance provider, which he said reviewed the footage and deemed him “not responsible/at fault for anything having to do with this ‘alleged incident.’”
This story first appeared on sanjoseinside.com.