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New Mesa police use of force reports released

Man files notice of claim against Mesa PD over excessive use of force claim in May arrest
Posted at 8:55 PM, Jun 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-26 01:34:52-04

MESA, AZ — The Maricopa County attorney has released more than a hundred pages of police reports outlining an alleged use of force case involving the arrest of a juvenile armed robbery suspect from last May.

Video of the arrest sparked outrage in the community, led to town hall meetings and protests out on the streets. Mesa police released the video just days after another alleged use of force video showing officers punching a man by an elevator, for refusing to comply with orders.

To avoid bias, Mesa police chief Ramon Batista asked Scottsdale police to review both cases. The reports released by the county attorney's office showcase why Scottsdale investigators believed two Mesa police officers used excessive force in this incident. Scottsdale police have confirmed that aggravated assault charges were submitted to the county attorney's office on both officers.

Community advocated pastor Andre Miller said he was pleasantly surprised to see a police agency recommending charges against fellow officers. "It gave me hope, you don't see that too often so it made feel there's a sense of hope here," said Miller.

Those hopes were soon shot down when despite recommendations made by Scottsdale police, Maricopa County attorney Bill Montgomery declined to prosecute the officers.

ABC15 asked him why at a town hall meeting he was invited to attend earlier this year. "Using force to detain a suspect who officers were aware had a deadly weapon, they were trying to search for a deadly weapon, it creates a circumstance where Arizona law permits use of force. I'm not going to get a conviction if I charge the case and present to a jury," said Montgomery.

Miller said he, along with many others were disappointed with the county attorney's decision. "Who do we turn to? Who do we go to for help? Who is standing up to protect us the people in this community? No one is supporting a criminal here, but everyone has a right to be treated with respect and not tortured by police officers," said Miller.

Here is a breakdown of what took place on that May, 2018 night and findings made by Scottsdale police investigators.

Police got a call involving a "subject causing a disturbance" at a Circle K on Country Club Drive. The caller stated the suspect had been waving around a sawed-off pump shotgun. The suspects fled prior to police arriving.

When police caught up with the suspect and another female, police say the teen struggled as they tried to arrest him. Reports state the suspect was yelling obscenities at the officers and calling them names. Police say he was moving a lot as they tried to restrain him and they believed he had a gun on him, which they were trying to find as they took him into custody.

Scottsdale police reports state the investigator reviewed footage from 28 body-worn cameras and found five which actually showed the struggle.

While questioning one of the offices involved in this incident, the Scottsdale detective seemed concerned about a technique the officer was using called a "mandibular angle pressure point" on the boy's neck.

The detective tells the Mesa officer he's watched the body camera videos. He goes on to state, "I've slowed it down. Literally watched it frame by frame, ah, you wind up grabbing him across the front of the throat. Um, is that a technique you've learned somewhere? Help me understand this one," the detective states in police reports.

The detective then goes on to say, "actually you can hear him choking at one point." The Mesa police officer says he was caught up in the moment and did not intend to choke the teen.

Community members believed prosecutors should have charged the officers involved in this case. Mesa police say one of the officers involved received a 40-hour suspension, the other is appealing the case so by state statute they're unable to comment on his case right now. Police reports state the teen is now behind bars for another crime.

Since the alleged use of force incidents came to light, Police Chief Ramon Batista has faced criticism from some Mesa police officers for taking a stand against behavior he has found to be "against department policy."

Batista has already made significant changes to the department's training, including critical decision making, de-escalation tactics and using non-lethal force options. He has revised a policy to prevent officers from "striking people's faces or heads unless a suspect was being very combative."

The department has also changed how it opens an internal investigation for an excessive-force allegation. Now anyone who wants to report a potential police brutality case can do so online, over the phone, in person, or through a notice of claim.

The Mesa police association has expressed displeasure over how the chief has been handling these incidents, saying may officers don't feel safe at work, they feel they are working in a hostile environment. Many officers recently voted "no confidence" against the chief.

The Mesa police association did not return our calls for comment on this story.

The police association along with the fraternal order of police will be holding a community forum on Friday, June 28 at 6 p.m., seeking public feedback on their action. The hearing will be held in the Superstition room at the Mesa Convention Center located at 263 N. Center Street, in Mesa.