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Experts: Glendale officer who tased man 11 times could not have seen alleged turn signal violation

Posted: 9:40 PM, Feb 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-14 00:28:01-05
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The Glendale police officer who repeatedly tased a handcuffed man could not have seen the alleged turn signal violation that he claimed was the reason for the stop, according to experts who reviewed surveillance video, body camera footage, and documents obtained by ABC15.

FULL COVERAGE: Abuse of Force investigation

Law enforcement experts said the evidence clearly shows that Officer Matt Schneider made up the reason for the traffic stop that descended into a violent use of police force and made international headlines.

“I absolutely do,” said Jeff Noble, an expert witness, attorney, and former deputy police chief, when asked if he believes Schneider lied. “I don’t think that’s truthful at all.”

Noble also said the department’s failure to properly investigate and discipline Schneider regarding the false claims raises serious concerns about the Glendale Police Department’s ability to competently and accurately conduct internal investigations.

ABC15 obtained internal documents showing that Glendale officials did identify that Schneider’s story was “unlikely” but failed to hold him accountable.

“What the department did, I would put at a level even worse than Schneider’s conduct,” Noble said.

“(Glendale) saw the evidence. The evidence that not only did this horrific incident occur, but it was based on an untruthful act by an officer,” he said. “Which tells me that the organization is engaged in covering up at least portions of the conduct of this officer."

THE TRAFFIC STOP

On July 27, 2017, Officer Schneider said he “observed the listed vehicle (Ford Taurus) fail to use its turn signal when it drove from Glenn Drive into the Motel 6 parking lot,” police records show.

Schneider also repeated the claim to other officers at the scene, according to his body camera footage. Watch the raw body camera video in the player below. WARNING: The video contains uncensored language and violence.

Surveillance video shows the Taurus pull into the Motel 6 parking lot from the south and then back into the first parking space. Shortly later, the police SUV can be seen entering the parking lot from a back alley on the opposite side of the property.

Officers Matt Schneider and Mark Lindsey exit the police vehicle and approach the car. Schneider quickly walks up to the passenger side.

He asks passenger Johnny Wheatcroft for his ID and then states his reason for the stop.

“Hey man, when you turn in here, make sure you throw your turn signal on for us.”

Lindsey does not speak to the driver about the alleged violation. In police reports, he places responsibility for the stop on Schneider.

“I asked Officer Lindsey if he recalled seeing the Ford Taurus prior to them entering the center driveway. Officer Lindsey stated that he didn’t recall seeing that Ford Taurus prior to that moment,” another investigating Glendale officer wrote.

The report continued, “I asked Officer Lindsey, ‘All you knew was that Matt said they didn’t use blinker. We are going to contact this vehicle,’ Officer Lindsey stated, ‘Correct.’”

After the stop, Schneider also tells Wheatcroft that he is required to produce ID if he is the passenger in a vehicle involved in a traffic stop, and that if he doesn’t provide it, he can be arrested and fingerprinted.

Both are also false statements, experts said.

Aside from the video evidence proving Schneider could not have seen the violation, Noble said the actions of the officer also raise red flags.

“The controlling officer is not going to the driver’s side and investigating the turn signal. He’s focused on the passenger,” Noble said. “Which tells me maybe that’s not why we’re here. They’re not really interested in this turn signal violation."

VIDEO AND PHOTO EVIDENCE

The Motel 6 at 7116 N. 59th Avenue is two separate two-story buildings split with a center parking lot.

The buildings have thick vegetation in front and do not have exterior windows, making it impossible to see through from one side or the other.

Below is a diagram of the property showing the back alley, where the Glendale police vehicle drove in, and Glenn Drive, where the Ford Taurus entered.

The yellow line shows the approximate known route of Officer Schneider and the orange line shows the approximate known route of Johnny Wheatcroft.

Surveillance video from the building shows that when the Taurus enters the lot, the Glendale vehicle can’t be seen emerging from the back alley until about a second or two later.

Body camera footage also shows the officers driving in the back alley for about 15 seconds before turning into the center parking lot. In the video, the buildings of the back alley can be seen passing by in the vehicle’s windows.

“It’s not possible for Schneider to see a turn signal,” Noble said.

By examining similar evidence, a Glendale investigator assigned to the look at the criminal case involving the use-of-force incident also concluded, “it seems unlikely that Officer Schneider could have seen them turn into the parking lot from Glenn Drive.”

Noble said the word “unlikely” is being too kind.

“That’s an incredible gift to the officer,” he said. “I think any reasonable officer investigating this incident would come to the same conclusion I would -- It’s just simply not true.”

But the final internal investigation findings issued by Glendale police did not sustain any allegations of untruthfulness against Schneider regarding the traffic signal – or even mention it at all.

Allegations of dishonesty are exceptionally sensitive for law enforcement officers.

If sustained, officers can be put on the Brady List and referred to AZPOST, the state police certification board, which often revokes officers’ certifications permanently for lying.

Both Glendale police and Officer Schneider, through an attorney, declined to comment for this story.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dave@abc15.com .