Three Arizona police officers and one sergeant are on administrative leave after CCTV footage emerged allegedly showing them punching and kneeing an unarmed man.
Mesa police were called to a domestic dispute at an apartment complex just before midnight on May 23. A woman had reported that her ex-boyfriend was trying to break into her apartment and officers met two men exiting the building when they arrived.
One of the men was Erik Reyes, the caller’s 20-year-old ex-boyfriend, who can be seen in the footage complying with officer’s orders to sit on the floor. His friend, 33-year-old Robert Johnson, chooses not to sit down.
The three officers then appear to begin punching Johnson repeatedly in the face and head, even after he had been knocked unconscious.
At another point in the 15-minute footage an officer appears to be shoving Johnson’s head into an elevator door after he was handcuffed and had his feet zip-tied. Near the end of the video one cop wraps a cloth around Johnson’s face, covering his eyes, before three officers pick him up and carry him to the elevator.
Johnson was later charged with disorderly conduct and hindering police. Reyes was charged with disorderly conduct, domestic violence and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Mesa police chief Ramon Batista said he only became aware of the incident a week later after hearing of it from a local resident, and opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrest. The four officers involved are on leave pending results of the probe.
“This in no way represents the whole work that is done every day,” Batista told ABC Arizona upon release of the footage on Tuesday. “They’re human beings and certainly at first glance, this looks like a mistake.”
This isn’t the first time the Mesa Police Department have come under fire for excessive use of force, however this is the first time police released footage of an incident to the public. Batista said he wanted to share it with context before it surfaced online.
In February, an 84-year-old grandmother was left with bruises after a Mesa police officer took her down. Officers originally said the woman slipped, but police video, released after pictures of the woman’s bruises went viral, showed otherwise.
Separately, former Mesa police officer Philip Brailsford was acquitted of second-degree murder in December last year despite body-camera footage showing him fatally shooting an unarmed man, who was on his knees crying and begging for his life, during a 2016 incident.
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