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Valley man, shot by officer, acquitted of resisting arrest

Randy Sewell
Posted at 8:09 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 01:24:36-04

MESA, AZ — A Valley man, who was shot by a Mesa officer during a violent arrest in 2019, has been acquitted of resisting arrest.

The Maricopa County jury reached its verdict Wednesday in the case of Randy Sewell.

Sewell, 46, was arrested in December 2019 after police responded to a call about unruly patrons at Ojos Locos Sports Cantina in Mesa.

That night, 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. Officers hit, pepper-sprayed, and tasered Sewell.

Then-Officer Nathan Chisler walked up behind Sewell and shot him in the buttocks. Sewell was unarmed and was bent over holding onto a utility pole at the time of the shooting.

Sewell was originally charged with aggravated assault against an officer, disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice, and resisting arrest.

All the charges, except resisting arrest, had been dropped by the time the case reached the jury. The jury deliberated for nearly a full day before deciding Sewell was not guilty.

"I'm just so very thankful the truth is finally coming out," Sewell said. "I am very happy for the support of my family, my friends, my team."

Defense attorneys alleged the criminal charges against Sewell were an effort to try to justify the officers' excessive force.

"It speaks to a bigger problem we have in society about police brutality police, assaulting citizens who are undangerous individuals and attacking them without provocation," attorney Mark Mendoza said.

"Mesa, by now, should understand that this is not something that they should continue to allow, and these practices need to stop," said attorney Candy Marrufo.

Mendoza said Sewell still has scars, injuries, pain, and PTSD that he will deal with forever as a result of the police officers' use of force.

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 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."

Chisler was fired from the Mesa Police Department and charged with aggravated assault against Sewell. The charge against the former officer was later dismissed.

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.

Neither Chisler nor Sewell testified in the trial.

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