The Huntsville Police Department is investigating a video of an officer stomping the leg of a 22-year-old Black man during his arrest after a video of the incident sparked outrage.
“We understand concerns with use of force techniques used in the arrest and we take these concerns seriously,” said a statement released on Tuesday. “The full incident is under review including all actions taken by officers during the arrest process.” On Monday, a small number of protesters demonstrated outside of the police station.
The incident happened on Sunday, May 30, at a Mapco gas station in Huntsville, Alabama, after officers were called to the scene by a store employee. According to the family of Kemontae Hobbs, the man being kicked and arrested in the video, panhandling was the reason why police were initially called.
According to police, officers made contact with Hobbs upon their arrival, but he was non-compliant. Footage of the encounter shows an officer on top of Hobbs as the two struggle while backup arrives.
One of the officers is seen repeatedly stomping on Hobbs’ leg.
Bruce Turner, the barber who recorded the footage, which has been viewed over 12,000 times, told Valley Central the store clerk told him Hobbs had been harassing female customers.
When the video starts, Hobbs is face-down on the ground with an officer. Another officer approaches quickly, yelling “Stop resisting!” multiple times before stomping Hobbs’ leg into the floor five times.
By the time the video ends, officers are lifting Hobbs off the ground and leading him out of the store.
Court filings say police received a domestic violence call and that Hobbs matched the description of the suspect. An officer then “attempted a pat-down for weapons for officer safety,” but while officers were attempting the pat-down, Hobbs “pulled away and turned towards the officer conducting the pat-down,” records say.
An officer also said in court filings that they had to deploy a Taser on Hobbs to “gain control” of the situation.
Hobbs was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing government operations but no underlying charges, only those stemming from his encounter with police.
According to the family attorney, Martin Weinberg, the use of force was not justified. “For someone who the crime was panhandling or something along those lines, which we understand was the case, there is no way this was an appropriate use of force,” said Weinberg.
Weinberg and Hobbs’ mother, Kimberlyn Haye, said Hobbs was diagnosed with schizophrenia years ago. During a news conference, they each expressed concerns about Huntsville officers’ ability to handle people suffering from mental illness and will notify the city of their plans to sue over the encounter.
“We are definitely prepared to take legal action,” Weinberg said.
“This is my child, you are beating my child. Literally kicking his leg,” Hobbs’ mother said. She said her son has been suffering from problems since the incident.
It’s not clear what the internal review process will entail or whether disciplinary action, if any, will be announced publicly.
Hobbs is no longer in jail after the community raised more than $800 for his bail. He had earlier encounter with police in October, when was charged with obstruction of justice. He was tased during that incident as well.
According to the Facebook group Huntsville Bail Fund, the police “are aware that he has schizophrenia, and is sometimes known to wander when he isn’t able to access treatment.”
After watching the video, City Council member Devyn Keith commented on Facebook, “How do three other officers find it better to restrain rather than stomp and if this is a situation where the officer on top was truly losing control, deploy the taser and then move on, this is reckless use of force in my opinion.”
“Looked like he was trying to break his leg,” said David Person with the Rosa Parks Day Committee. “That was profoundly disturbing, and again, this is just another example of what’s wrong with the culture of policing in our city.”