An internal investigation has been launched into the San Diego Police Department after two officers were caught on video repeatedly striking a Black man in his head during an arrest, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. In response to the criticism, the department released the body camera footage Friday, May 21.
The eye witness clip, which La Jolla resident Nicole Bansal captured, showed two cops on the morning of Wednesday, May 12, tackling a man later identified as 34-year-old Jesse Evans at La Jolla Village Drive and Torrey Pines Road around 9 a.m.
The initial video is roughly 4 minutes long. However, in one of the videos circulating the internet, Evan’s right arm is being held by one officer before another, who appeared to be holding a stun gun at first, comes towards him and begins to tackle him to the ground. After struggling to get the man down by pushing and kicking him in the back of his legs, both officers get Evans to the ground before one of them starts punching him in the head repeatedly. Bansal gasps, yelling, “stop.”
Evans hits one of the officers at least twice before being asked, “what the f-ck are you doing?” Evans yells, “I have to f-cking piss.” The police officer repeatedly tells him to “stop resisting” before telling him to “put your hands behind your back” while still holding Evans down to the ground. The officer who was seen holding Evan’s arm at the start of the clip begins to punch his legs several times.
The officers continue to hit Evans before two more officers arrive on the scene. Shortly after, another cop car comes — carrying two more officers — blocks Bansal’s view. Ultimately more show up. In the video, the witness says, “To deal with a homeless man. This is insanity, eight cops, four cop cars.”
Bansal told NBC 7 that when she saw the cop and realized it was Evans, her first response was to start recording. She said Evans is known in the neighborhood and described him as a houseless member of the community who “doesn’t bother anyone.” She added, “I just see him out and about pretty regularly multiple times a week, if not every day. He doesn’t bother anyone. He just keeps to himself. He’s out on his walk, and he sometimes talks to himself, but no, I’ve never seen him interact with anyone.”
The force used was “excessive and unnecessary,” Bansal stated. She told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “There was no movement made to de-escalate. The immediate movement was to take him down. I don’t understand.” She added, “There was absolutely no need to go about punching him and taking him down like that.”
Lt. Shawn Takeuchi, a spokesman for the SDPD, released a statement on Thursday, May 13, stating that the Internal Affairs Unit was investigating and reviewing body camera video of the incident. He also explained that the interaction initiated when Evans was allegedly ignoring officers who spoke to him about urinating in public.
“From a distance, the officers tried to talk to the man. The officers decided to approach the man because urinating in public violates the law,” Takeuchi wrote. “The man would not stop to speak with officers, therefore an officer held the man to detain him.”
Evans was taken to a hospital. Once released, he was booked into the county jail, where he remained in custody. Evans was booked on suspicion of three felony counts of resisting an officer, three misdemeanor counts of battery on a police officer, and a misdemeanor count related to throwing an officer’s radio. None of the charges were for urinating in public.
By Friday morning, May 14, Evans was out of jail thanks to Abel’s Bail Bonds. Amie Zamudio, an advocate for the homeless told local news outlet that she picked up Evan from jail early that morning.
“Jesse needs housing. Jesse was looking for a restroom. We have police officers following people around wondering if they are going to go to the restroom,” Zamudio said. She also called the incident a double dose of “police harassment … to be Black and profiled, and to be homeless and profiled.”
Francine Maxwell, president of the NAACP’s San Diego branch, released a letter May 21 sharply criticizing San Diego’s police department in light of “recent adoption of de-escalation policies and the Mayor’s clear policy statements in support of the homeless.”
Maxwell in part, “Punching someone in the face while yelling ‘stop resisting’ is not a reasonable method of gaining compliance. If such behavior is considered acceptable, San Diego Police Department’s use-of-force Policy must be revised immediately. The citizens of San Diego expect that the San Diego Police Department will treat all people, including the homeless, with dignity, respect, and tolerance.”
Meanwhile, the initial cops involved have not been identified, and it’s unclear whether they will be disciplined.