Attorney Demands Action Vs. Mesa Police Seen On Video Hitting Man

Published: Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 8:49am
Updated: Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 7:48pm

An attorney for an Arizona man whose beating by police was caught on camera says the Mesa Police Department officers should be suspended and disciplined.

Four officers are on leave while the department investigates the May 23 incident in which three officers are seen punching the man, who does not appear to resist arrest. Other officers also were in the area. The video is from an apartment complex surveillance camera.

Attorney Benjamin Taylor says his client, Robert Johnson, was not a threat and had already been searched when police started punching him.

Mesa police say officers were responding to a call from a woman who said her ex-boyfriend was trying to break into her apartment. Police arrived and found the ex-boyfriend, Erick Reyes, 20, along with Johnson, 33. Both were detained.

The video shows Johnson standing against a wall looking at his phone while Reyes is sitting on the ground. There is no audio. Officers can be seen approaching Johnson and then quickly punching him numerous times. They pull him to the ground and flip him over. Johnson never appears to threaten or resist the officers.

In video released to the Arizona Republic, Johnson is seen asking the officers, "Why?" One officer responded, “(because) it makes us feel comfortable.” Johnson then repeated, “but why?” A second officer is overheard ordering Johnson to, “Have a seat.” Johnson took a half seated posture still leaning against the wall and chided, “Aw, yeah, you are small, you are small.” The second officer warned Johnson, “Guess what, I ain’t going to ask you again, have a seat.” At this point, Johnson’s attorneys say he was unarmed and in a relaxed posture when police move in and began punching him repeatedly in the head.

"He's a good guy and he didn't deserve to be beat up," Taylor said. Taylor said he wants the charges of disorderly conduct and hindering prosecution to be dropped.

Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista said the incident was brought to his attention by a Mesa pastor, prompting him to launch an internal investigation and place three officers and a sergeant on leave. Batista has said he is issuing a directive that prohibits officers from hitting people in the face, head and neck unless there is active aggression against them.

The department has been criticized in the past few years for incidents involving use of force. A former officer who was fired for violating department policy was tried but acquitted on a murder charge in the 2016 fatal shooting of a Texas man who was unarmed and on the ground.

The three officers and their sergeant are on administrative leave.

Mesa's Police chief has ordered an internal investigation and directed officers to avoid hitting the face, head or neck, unless they are facing active aggression.

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