Four Mesa, Arizona police officers are on paid administrative leave this week after shocking surveillance video shows them rush an unsuspecting man on his cell phone, before beating him unconscious.
Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista has promised an investigation into the video showing several of his officers repeatedly punch 33-year-old Robert Johnson in the face, station News 12 reported. The cops were responding to a domestic disturbance call on May 13 when the brutal attack unfolded.
The footage shows Johnson, a friend of the suspect, staring down at his cell phone near an elevator when he’s approached by police. Moments later, the officers are seen striking him several times in the face and body. The elevator door opens and more officers come out to join in on the assault.
At one point, the video shows one of the officers ram Johnson’s head into the elevator door as other officers cuff him and zip-tie his feet before carrying him away.
“I don’t feel that our officers were at their best,” Batista said of the video. “I don’t feel this situation needed to go the way that it went.
According to Arizona Central, the video’s release comes as the Mesa Police Department has faced scrutiny for officers’ use of force in other incidents. Batista said he wanted to release the footage and provide some context before it made its rounds on social media, adding he was unaware of the video until a week after the incident.
“… The images of the video are powerful and I thought it was paramount that you hear it from me with respect to how I feel about it and what I’m going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” he told The Arizona Public in an interview.
The police chief didn’t say whether he believed Johnson was being uncooperative with police but agreed that the officers’ use of force didn’t appear to be necessary upon his initial review of the 15-minute clip.
Officers arrested Johnson on suspicion of disorderly conduct and hindering while his friend, 20-year-old Erik Reyes, was also arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and suspicion of possessing drug paraphernalia, Arizona Central reported. Reyes is also facing domestic violence charges, according to 12 News.
Johnson has since hired legal representation and his lawyers said he did nothing to provoke such a violent response from police.
“The misconduct of these officers would have gone unnoticed if it hadn’t been captured by surveillance videos at the apartment complex where the assault occurred,” attorneys Joel Robbins and Benjamin Taylor said in a statement on Tuesday. “We hope and pray that the Mesa Police Department will accept responsibility for the misconduct of these officers.”
“Mesa must take concrete steps to ensure that culpable officers are disciplined, retrained, or dismissed,” they added.