MESA, AZ — After a Mesa police officer shot an unarmed man in 2019, both were criminally charged, but only one had to stand trial in the case.
A Maricopa County jury started deliberating in the case of Randy Sewell Tuesday afternoon. Sewell, 46, faces one count of felony resisting arrest after police responded to a call about unruly patrons at Ojos Locos Sports Cantina in Mesa.
Also Tuesday, a judge dismissed a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge against Sewell, saying that prosecutors had failed to prove that case. During the Ojos Locos incident, an officer asked Sewell to give his identification, so his name could be placed on a trespassing log. He refused. Sewell's attorneys argued he had a legal right not to identify himself because officers did not tell him he was being detained, arrested, or investigated for a crime.
A few minutes later, when Sewell tried to walk away from a different officer, the situation escalated.
During the trial, several officers were questioned about whether Sewell physically resisted arrest and what force officers used against him.
"[Sewell] did not actually grab you and push you around, did he?" asked defense lawyer Mark Mendoza.
"He did not grab me and push me," replied Mesa Officer Craig Churella.
"He did not actually touch you with his hand at that moment, did he?" asked Mendoza.
"Not with his hand. No," said Churella.
The prosecutor said Sewell refused to give officers his hands to be handcuffed, a 13-second period of resisting arrest. The prosecutor added Sewell could be convicted of resisting even if officers had no valid reason to make the arrest in the first place.
"Multiple officers were trying to detain the subject and place him in handcuffs," said Officer Tyson Koehn. "It was a struggle to do, so I deployed my Taser."
After the tasering and commotion, then-Officer Nathan Chisler approached Sewell from behind and shot him once in the buttocks. Sewell was unarmed and had not threatened deadly force against the officers.
Chisler was fired from the Mesa Police Department and charged with aggravated assault against Sewell. The charge against the former officer was later dismissed.
Defense attorney Mark Mendoza argued that Sewell did not physically fight, hit, or kick any of the officers. Mendoza also said none of the officers on the scene told Sewell he was under arrest.
Mendoza alleged the criminal charges against Sewell came afterward in an effort to try to justify the officers' excessive force. The defense team argued a not guilty verdict for Sewell would send the message that this kind of police behavior was not acceptable.
Neither Chisler nor Sewell testified.
Jury deliberations will resume Wednesday morning.