The San Diego Police Department has launched an internal investigation after two of their officers were recorded on video punching a man during an arrest late last week.
At about 9:00 a.m. local time last Wednesday, two officers approached a man after they allegedly “witnessed him urinating in public,” according to a police spokesperson.
Civilian witnesses in the La Jolla area, where the arrest took place, reported to local news outlets that the man is experiencing homelessness. He was later identified by the San Diego Union-Tribune as Jesse Evans, after he held a press conference on Saturday with the assistance of local activists demanding that the officers’ body camera footage be released.
Nicole Bansal, a 34-year-old resident of La Jolla, took video of the approach and subsequent arrest, which included the officers dragging the man to the ground and delivering punches while down.
Speaking to NBC News about her horror in watching the incident transpire, Bansal said (below):
“I see him around all the time. He’s harmless. He’s just homeless. He’s very easy to recognize, because he always has a big orange life vest on. did not try to de-escalate. … If they had just approached the situation calmly and tried to de-escalate, we wouldn’t be here. That man didn’t go out to take those guys down. The cops went there with that intention to take him down … and the resulting fight is what ensued.”
In the video (which you can see, below), the two officers lunge at Evans to take him into custody, and a struggle ensues. One officer punches the man in the head and face at least three times, and later appears to strike Evans with his forearm.
The second officer punches the man in his legs several times, too. The man appears to throw at least two punches back at officers, as well, and at one point yanks an item off an officer’s belt and tosses it away.
In the clip, officers are heard repeatedly yelling “stop resisting,” and “put your hands behind your back.” The struggle lasted several minutes before two more officers arrived on scene.
You can see video of the incident (below), but as we noted above, please be aware that it is disturbing, graphic, and very violent:
Yeah, nothing OK about that.
A police spokesperson, Lt. Shawn Takeuchi, confirmed late Thursday that the department’s Internal Affairs Unit is investigating the incident and reviewing all body camera footage of the incident.
Takeuchi released his own statement about the incident to the media, too, saying:
“The man would not stop to speak with officers therefore an officer held the man to detain him. Despite the officers repeatedly telling the man to ‘stop resisting,’ the man would not comply. One of the officers struck the man several times.”
Evans was taken to a hospital and treated before being booked in jail on charges including resisting arrest and battery of a police officer. The two officers involved have not been publicly identified.
According to NBC News, the San Diego police instituted a new de-escalation policy last June that requires officers to “try to establish an effective line of communication” with people they come across, while taking into account various factors like age, mental/physical condition, and “known or perceived disabilities.”
For Bansal, she alleges what she witnessed was little more than criminalizing homelessness. She concluded:
“These people are meant to serve and protect the community. They have a right to also serve and protect that man. He’s a member of this community. I’ve lost a lot of faith in the police as I see these videos on social media. But I still never thought I would be on the receiving end of witnessing something like this.”
At the aforementioned Saturday news conference about the incident, Reverend Shane Harris, president of the People’s Association of Justice, slammed the officers’ tactics and demanded the public release of body camera footage.
“I saw on video what everybody saw. A Black man being brutalized, being treated like he wasn’t a human. Being treated unjustly, all because he was allegedly urinating. What we are looking at today is urinating while Black.”
In response to the outrage and Harris’ public calls for transparency, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria issued a statement about the incident, as well:
“Use of force should always be a last resort, and, whenever it is used, it must be thoroughly reviewed to ensure officers are held accountable for following policy and their training. I have spoken personally with the police chief and there will be a thorough review of this incident.”
Sad, sad stuff.
Hopefully some kind of third-party investigation can be conducted to ensure justice is served in this case.
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