Charges dropped against Robert Johnson, man seen punched by Mesa police

Charges dropped against man punched by Mesa cops
Posted at 2:59 PM, Jun 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-15 01:49:31-04

Charges have been dropped against Robert Johnson, the man seen punched multiple times on surveillance video by Mesa police officers during an incident in late May.

A report from the May 23 incident in Mesa states the man, 33-year-old Robert Johnson, was "verbally defiant and confrontational." Mesa police released the report, along with footage from police-worn cameras, after a video was released by Johnson's attorneys raising criticism over the handling of the incident.

The Mesa City Prosecutor and the court agreed to drop the charges on Thursday, June 14.

Five officers are on leave while the incident is under review.

RELATED: 7 Mesa officers on leave over use-of-force calls

Officers were responding to a call from a woman who said her ex-boyfriend was trying to break into her apartment, police said. Police arrived and found the ex-boyfriend, Erick Reyes, 20, along with Johnson. Both were detained.

After officers arrived, surveillance footage from the apartment complex where the incident took place shows Johnson standing against a wall, looking at his phone, while Reyes is sitting on the ground nearby.

Police are seen approaching and speaking with Johnson shortly before the altercation occurs. The officers are then seen punching Johnson several times before taking him to the ground. 

"Johnson's body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation," one of the officers wrote in the report. "It appeared Johnson was trying not to sit down in order to retain a position of physical advantage by remaining on his feet."

The Scottsdale Police Department is reviewing the case to determine if there was any criminal conduct by the Mesa officers. 

"The actions shown on that video and others recently released do not reflect the values of the Mesa Police Department," Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista said. "I promise you, we will fix this."

Johnson's attorney, Benjamin Taylor, released the following statement after the charges were dropped against him:

"We are pleased to hear the false charges against my client Mr. Johnson have been dismissed. Our focus now is on ensuring a fair investigation is conducted by the Scottsdale Police Department. We expect the officers involved in the beating of my client to face disciplinary action and termination within the Mesa Police Department. The prosecutor's office must not be afraid to pursue criminal charges for the officers involved in the assault on Mr. Johnson."

Another use-of-force incident under review that happened on May 17 shows the arrest of a 15-year-old armed robbery suspect. Surveillance video showed an officer grabbing the teen's jaw as he exchanged profane language with police.