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Tempe officers recovering after fight with suspect

Posted at 10:26 PM, Sep 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-26 01:26:47-04

Two Tempe police officers have been released from the hospital after being injured while making an arrest.

During the struggle, the suspect nearly got one of the officer’s guns.

One of the officers may have a fractured jaw, the other potentially a broken hand.

Unlike so many other recent police incidents though, this one did not end with an officer-involved shooting.

It was shortly after 3 a.m. on Sunday, outside the Ramada Inn in Tempe, off North Scottsdale Road.

"It was a ton of cops out here, an ambulance, and a fire truck," said one guest of the Inn.

Guests told ABC15 they immediately knew something major had happened.

"I don’t know if I’d be exaggerating if I said 15 to 20 cop cars," said the guest, who did not want to be identified.

Officers were called because of a suspicious car in the parking lot. It was believed to be driven by a man who was the subject of another police call earlier in the night.

When officers arrived, they encountered 33-year-old Miguel Matias.

Officers say he had a glass pipe and open beer cans in his car. Matias tried to start the car and drive off, but officers pulled him out. Then things escalated quickly.

According to court records, officers say Matias hit one officer in the face with an elbow, leaving a large welt. He then hit the officer in the genitals three times before he "gripped the officer's testicles for multiple seconds."

Officers recounted in charging paperwork that they tackled Matias and while wrestling, he got ahold of the officer's magazines before reaching around the duty belt and tried to grab the officer's gun.

Fortunately there was a retaining device and the officer was able to turn away and prevent Matias from getting the weapon.

"He’s creating a lethal force event," said Lon Bartel, a retired police officer and use-of-force expert who reviewed the court documents.

Bartel spent 20 years with Peoria police. He says the attempt to take the gun would have justified lethal force.

"This is somebody who is intentionally assaulting the officer and attempting to arm themselves. This is as bad as it gets," said Bartel.

The other officer eventually used a taser, which was not effective.

One of the officers was able to put Matias in a choke hold, which caused him to briefly lose consciousness and officers were able to put him in handcuffs.

"I’m glad that [Matias] didn’t kill anybody. But I’m glad that [officers] used restraint, instead of using force," said the guest of the Ramada Inn.

With 67 officer-involved shootings by Valley agencies as of September 25, many people were happy to hear Matias ended up in jail instead of the hospital.

"I’m happy Tempe police settled it the way they did," said Orlando Lowman.

Bother officers are fairly young, but it is unclear if that made them more or less likely to use lethal force.

One officer is 29-years-old, and the one primarily in the fight was just 23. Tempe police told ABC15 he joined the department in February 2018.

Tempe police said they could not comment on how their officers handled the situation until the use-of-force investigation is complete.