Four Arizona police officers are on leave after violently beating Robert Johnson.
On Tuesday, the Mesa Police Department in Arizona released a surveillance video footage showing a group of Mesa police officers beating an unarmed man responding to a call at an apartment complex.
The 15-minute video of the incident, which took place May 23, shows four police officers investigating a 33-year-old man named Robert Johnson as he stands near a railing on the upper floor of an apartment complex. The police officers are punching and kneeing the man and at one point slamming his head into an elevator door.
On May 23rd the officers responded to a 911 call from a local apartment complex. They arrived to find Erick Reyes and Robert Johnson. Officers behaved calmly with Reyes and investigated him but their behavior with Robert Johnson became very harsh when he didn’t sit down after being told.
The chief of Mesa Police Department Ramon Batista told the news reporter on Tuesday night that he didn’t know about the incident until a civilian sent the surveillance video to the police department. Batista said that he released the video to the public because he wanted to be transparent about the incident and provide more context that would be left out if the video were posted anonymously online. The four police officers involved were placed on immediate leave pending an investigation, he added.
“I don’t feel that our officers were at their best, I don’t feel this situation needed to go the way it went,” Batista told the reporters.
He further added that the department would change some of its policies regarding use-of-force after this incident.
“This in no way represents the whole work that is done every day. They are human beings and certainly, at first glance, this looks like a mistake.” Batista said.
But the critics say several high-profile incidents in the past are not acceptable.
“Mesa has a culture of police brutality, and this affects all the people that live in Mesa and travel through Mesa, and this culture needs to be cleaned up immediately,” said Benjamin Taylor, lawyer of Johnson.
More about the video
In the longer 20-minute video released by the Mesa Police Department, Johnson can be clearly seen leaning on the apartment complex balcony. The footage also shows Reyes sitting on the ground talking to the officer. Johnson speaks with the officers but then returns to his phone.
Three more police officers arrive on the spot and seems to order him to move near the wall. After Johnson moves, the officer then points to the ground. When Johnson keep standing as he uses his phone, he is grabbed and surrounded by a group of officers.
After that he is being handcuffed by the officers and is being lifted towards the elevator. The officer slams his head against the elevator door. After a couple of minutes, Johnson’s face is wrapped with a white cloth, lifted by his arms and legs he is carried into the elevator.
The police officers argued that Johnson didn’t comply with their orders. Johnson was charged with disorderly conduct and hindering. Local news didn’t specify exactly what Johnson was hindering.
On the other side, Johnson’s lawyer said,
“This is terrible for Mesa police culture, and we’re going to be doing everything we can to pursue justice for our client.” – Benjamin Taylor, lawyer for Robert Johnson
Some disturbing incidents of Mesa Police in the Past
In the past year, Mesa Police have been criticized for some use-of-force cases.
In February, some pictures were posted by the family of an 84-year-old grandmother after a Mesa police officer grabbed her and took her down. The pictures went viral on Facebook, seeing this Mesa police released a video showing the takedown. Police said that the woman slipped.
In December, a judge allowed the release of an unedited footage showing Phillip Brailsford (a former Mesa police officer who was acquitted by a jury of a second-degree murder charge) shooting a man who was crying and begging for his life. A sergeant yelling commands at the man can be heard in the video.