A Black teen is suing a California police department after body camera video showed a cop repeatedly punching him.
London Wallace had no gang connections and no criminal history when the footage shows Fresno police Officer Christopher Martinez punching him several times in the head and face, according to ABC affiliate KFSN-TV.
He was later arrested on charges of resisting arrest and obstruction, which prosecutors have since dropped, the news station reported.
The incident dated back to a probation search Jan. 23 at an apartment where a gang member was known to reside, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told The Fresno Bee.
He said Wallace was one of 15 to 20 people inside the apartment when officers arrived. He was told to go outside twice and did so hesitantly, Dyer said.
At that point, the body camera footage shows Wallace putting his hands behind his head with his fingers interlocking while an officer patted him down.
When the officer finished, another cop on the scene is shown briefly telling Wallace something then pointing to the ground where other people are sitting down.
It only took about 5 seconds for Martinez to confront Wallace, who is standing, and grab the teen’s arm.
“Hey, don’t touch my little brother,” one man is heard yelling in the video.
At that point, Wallace is shown saying something to Martinez, and the video showed the officer quickly responding with at least six punches to the teen’s head and face.
Wallace’s attorney, Nolan Kane, said the body camera footage shows the full picture of what happened.
“He’s a high school kid. He likes playing basketball. He’s a nice, calm, timid person,” Kane said. “And you can kind of see that in the video. He’s not used to police contact.”
Legal analyst Ralph Torres told KFSN police usually have a built-in defense of fearing for the officer’s safety.
“But in this case, the kid was patted down. There was nothing there,” Torres said. “And I don’t see anything that was consistent with an officer basically putting his fist right through his face.”
Dyer told reporters in a press conference Wednesday that the officer was placed on modified duty pending the results of an investigation.
“The video that I have reviewed certainly raises concerns and raises questions for me as a police chief,” Dyer said. “Those questions will be answered once all the video is reviewed, the interviews are conducted, the evidence is looked at and the investigation is complete.”
Martinez said in a police report the Fresno Bee obtained that he punched the teen “approximately three times in the face in order to get him off me and to back him up.”
“I noticed Wallace was not listening,” Martinez also said in the report. “I believed Wallace was going to attempt to flee.”
Martinez added: “By punching Wallace in the face, I received the desired effect, creating the distance between me and Wallace, which allowed me to get my back off of the second story balcony railing.”