Man Beaten By Police Wants Mesa To Be Held Accountable

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 7:52pm
Updated: Friday, June 8, 2018 - 11:46am
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Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
Robert Johnson speaks to the press in June 2018.

An internal investigation is underway after security and body camera footage showed Mesa police officers beating a detained man at an apartment complex in May.

Mesa police say they responded to a call on May 23 after a woman reported her ex-boyfriend and another man were trying to enter her apartment.

Upon arriving at the apartment complex, Mesa police detained two men: Erick Reyes, 20 and Robert Johnson, 33.

The police surrounded Johnson and ordered him to stand against the wall and then sit down. Video shows Johnson walking to the wall and leaning against it. After he is ordered to sit down again, one of the officers repeatedly punched Johnson in the face.

Johnson was then taken to the ground.

At a press conference Thursday at Johnson’s church in Mesa, Attorney Joel Robbins called it an unnecessary escalation in the use of force.

“You start with words, you raise your voice, you go to soft hands and you ask them to go down,” Robbins said. “If that’s not available then you go to hard hands, but you never start to punch until you’ve worn out words.”

Johnson became emotional at the press conference and said he wanted “Mesa to be held accountable for what they have done.”

Surveillance video of the incident shows police smashing Johnson’s face against the elevator door as they take him into custody.

The Mesa Police Department said a Mesa resident, Pastor Andre Miller, contacted Chief Ramon Batista about the surveillance video on May 30. Batista said he immediately initiated an internal investigation, which resulted in one sergeant and three officers being removed from active duty and placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

Batista also ordered a “prohibition on face, head and neck strikes unless there is active aggression being exhibited by an individual toward the officer.”

Speaking at the press conference, Miller said while Johnson is black, he doesn’t think the incident was motivated by skin color.

“This is not a race issue, this is a culture issue — a police culture issue that has to change,” Miller said. “It could happen to anyone of us when we have an encounter with the police and it should not.”

Mesa police said Johnson was charged with Disorderly Conduct and Hindering Prosecution. His attorneys are asking for the charges to be dropped and say they will take all possible legal actions to support Johnson.

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