GLENDALE, AZ — The City of Glendale and its police department have released video, information, and statements that contain several half-truths and blatant omissions in the wake of a scandal stemming from the July 2017 arrest of Johnny Wheatcroft, according to new documents and emails obtained by ABC15 through a public records request.
The case has captured national attention.
Wheatcroft’s arrest was captured on police body camera and shows officers repeatedly tasing him during a traffic stop. For the final tase, Officer Matt Schneider pulled down Wheatcroft’s shorts and stunned him in the testicles, according to a federal lawsuit.
The documents and emails reveal new details about the FBI's investigation and fill gaps in Glendale's initial statements about Wheatcroft's case.
FBI initiated investigation
The FBI’s email to Glendale Police came at 9:37 a.m.
It was Monday, February 11, the first business day after ABC15 exposed disturbing body camera footage showing Glendale officers repeatedly tasing and kicking a handcuffed man.
“I caught the news on Friday and I’ve been following the story over the weekend,” wrote FBI special agent Daniel Johnson, with the Civil Rights / Public Corruption section. “My headquarters, both here and in DC, are asking that I review the matter.”
The email, posted below, shows that federal investigators initiated the case into Glendale’s use of force at the direction of local and national officials days before Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery announced he was forwarding the case to the FBI to ensure the public’s confidence. The county attorney's office previously declined to prosecute one of the officers.
The message from the FBI set off a chain of emails between Glendale Police and the city’s attorneys.
Most of the emails are redacted, but they shed light on a February 13 public statement from city leaders after news broke about the federal agency’s probe that vaguely claimed the city was in “communication with the FBI and preparing to send all the documents and videos.”
The public statement didn’t indicate whether it was the city or the FBI who started the communication.
In addition to saying Glendale was in “communication” with the FBI on Monday, the statement also said the city had committed to fully cooperating with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office decision to re-examine the incident on Tuesday.
In an email, a county attorney’s office spokeswoman said that Glendale did not tell their office about the FBI’s email at the time and that Montgomery did not know before he asked the federal agency to review the case.
Wheatcroft offered to settle for $500,000
In the February 13 statement, the city also wrote, “In December 2018, prior to the plaintiff shopping their story to the media, they offered to settle for the absurd amount of $15 million.”
What the statement doesn’t say: Wheatcroft, represented by a previous attorney, offered to settle for considerably less about a year earlier.
“The Claimants will compromise and settle all their claims against all Defendants, jointly and severally, for the sum of $500,000,” according to the notice of claim dated January 22, 2018.
But Glendale didn’t respond to the offer.
Police spokesman downloaded body cam video months before ABC15 report
On February 8, the day ABC15 broke the story, the department issued a press release to all media outlets and publicly posted a 30-second clip of the incident from a building surveillance camera.
The department did not initially release any body camera video.
After the body camera footage gained national attention, Glendale Police did release body camera footage at a private media briefing on February 11 but refused to let journalists audio or video record the briefing or spokespeople's comments.
At the briefing, one spokeswoman said the department didn’t release the body camera videos initially because ABC15 didn’t give them enough time to respond.
But video evidence logs posted below show that Sgt. John Roth, who oversees the department’s public information office, had accessed, marked, and downloaded the body camera footage almost five months earlier on Sep. 19, 2018.
Police officials have not yet answered questions about when they started drafting the press release that was released on February 8.
The 30-second clip from the building’s camera is still the only video posted publicly by Glendale on its Twitter and Facebook pages.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at email@example.com.