Body camera video released showing use of physical force by Mesa police officers
MESA, Ariz. (KSAZ) - The Mesa Police Department has released body camera video showing the use of physical force by officers towards a man at an apartment complex.
Video of the altercation first surfaced on Tuesday, showing officers making contact with the man before multiple punches were thrown and the man being wrestled to the ground. The incident happened at a balcony at the El Rancho apartment complex on May 23, when officers were there for a domestic disturbance call involving Robert Johnson's friend.
In the video, Johnson was heard letting officers know he has a knife. The officers then went on to give Johnson more commands.
"Have a seat right there by the wall," one of the officers said.
"What do I need to sit in the corner for?" Johnson replied.
Rather then sitting, Johnson leaned on the wall in a semi-squatted position. Officers told him to sit all the way down, and that was when things got physical. The officer seen on the video striking Johnson multiple times detailed why he used that kind of force, in a report, saying:
"Johnson's body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation. Johnson's shoulders were bowed forward slightly, and head slightly nodded. Johnson's breathing became shallower, and intentionally suggesting physiologically, his body was transitioning to fight-or-flight mode."
"Your body language -- I mean, that's no reason to be beat up, because your body language is bad," said attorney Benjamin Taylor. "They searched him. They knew there was no weapon on him. He was not a threat. He's there leaning against the wall with a cell phone."
Meanwhile, a number of officers and one sergeant have been placed on administrative leave, as a result of the video.
"I didn't know anything about this, and the way I learned about this is because a member of the community sent me the video and said, 'hey, this looks very alarming, and I need you to look at it,'" said Chief Batista. "I examined it, and I immediately opened up an investigation."
Meanwhile, Pastor Andre Miller, along with Taylor and attorney Joel Robbins, issued a joint statement on the incident Tuesday. According to that statement, Johnson was described as "cooperative" and "following police instructions".
"The misconduct of these officers would have gone unnoticed if it had not been captured by surveillance videos at the apartment complex where the assault occurred," read a portion of the statement. "The Mesa Police Department must develop a law enforcement culture that meets community and constitutional norms and ensures that police and citizens go home safely after police interactions."