The Mesa, Arizona, Police Department, already under scrutiny over allegations of excessive force, says it’s reviewing another controversial arrest and video — the latest showing an officer repeatedly punching an unarmed man who was later mocked by an officer as he lies on a hospital floor covered in blood.
The emergence of bodycam video from a January arrest comes after Mesa police released videos last week showing the arrest of a teenager, who at times screamed in pain while being searched.
The department was already reeling after surveillance footage emerged of officers punching and kneeing an unarmed man in a May 23 arrest. The charges against the man, Robert Johnson, were dropped on Thursday, CNN affiliate KNXV reported.
The latest video to surface shows the January 28 arrest of Jose Conde, 23, who was in the passenger seat of a car that Conde’s lawyer said was stopped for driving without headlights. Bret Royle, the lawyer, said he received the bodycam videos from prosecutors after he rejected a plea deal in connection with Conde’s case.
In the videos from several officers, it appears the traffic stop quickly escalated into a scuffle after Conde stepped out of the car. At least two other officers tried to subdue Conde. A police report said Conde resisted arrest and threw punches at an officer who found cocaine concealed in his sock.
In one part of the video, someone is heard saying “f— you” before Officer Joseph Mis punches Conde, who appears to be handcuffed.
Conde screamed in pain and, at one point, told the officers, “I can’t breathe.”
“Quit fighting,” one officer tells Conde.
An officer is heard telling Conde at one point in the scuffle, “You picked the wrong people to fight, brother.”
“I didn’t fight you guys, dude,” Conde responded. “You guys just started punching me.”
‘Bless his little heart’
Conde was taken to a hospital after suffering a cut to his ear when officers pushed him into a wall, according to the police report. Police said Conde tried to escape from the emergency room but an officer grabbed him and forced him against a wall.
In one video, a hospital worker walks with an officer over to Conde, who was bleeding from his head.
“Bless his little heart,” the officer said.
Looking down on the bloody Conde, the officer said, “Awww.”
“Man up,” the officer added.
In a statement Thursday, Police Chief Ramon Batista said the department was reviewing the January arrest and “as more events come forward we will carefully review each incident as appropriate.”
“Simply put, the tape released … by media outlets does not tell the full story concerning this arrest,” he said.
“With emotion running high on all sides, we know that despite our differences we are working towards the common goal … to make the Mesa Police Department better than it has ever been.”
‘Laughed at me while I lay in a pool of my own blood’
At a news conference with Conde on Thursday, Royle said the bodycam videos showed the police reports were “at a minimum embellished, if not falsified.” He said he was not planning a lawsuit against the department and wanted his client exonerated of the charges, including drug possession, resisting arrest, escape and aggravated assault.
“There are several officers within the Mesa Police Department that have demonstrated over the last couple of weeks their willingness to put themselves above the law rather than to protect and serve it,” he said.
“In doing this they have disobeyed our trust. They violated the trust of the community. They violated the trust of fellow officers because when officers act like this it causes citizens to question the integrity of other good officers.”
Royle said Conde was on probation for a DUI-related charge.
At the news conference, Conde read a statement that said he hoped his case brings “meaningful change” to the department.
“I was searched,” he said. “I was thrown to the ground. I was heaved into a wall. I was (tasered). I was punched over and over by multiple cops. I was gouged in the eye and I was hit in the head with a massive police flashlight. After all of this, they laughed at me while I lay in a pool of my own blood barely conscious.”
Police chief calls for investigation
Last week, the emergence of two earlier Mesa police videos prompted Batista to ask the Police Executive Research Forum “to conduct a comprehensive and fully independent investigation looking into our use of force events over the past three years, as well as our policies, procedure and training.”
Batista also asked former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to undertake a separate independent investigation of the department, he said.
One incident involved the arrest of a 15-year-old suspect on May 17 in response to a call of an armed robbery, according to police.
In bodycam video, an officer can be seen placing a foot behind the suspect’s head while he is on the ground. The officer notes in the police report the boot was there to “keep him from getting up.”
As police pull the suspect up and take him to a squad car, one officer can be seen in the video grabbing and holding the suspect by what the police report describes as a pressure point behind his ear.
The teenager is pushed against the squad car and repeatedly says, “I’m just trying to get home to my grandma.” An officer again appears to hold the suspect by the pressure point near his ear while searching for a gun. The teenager begins screaming in apparent pain, continually denying he has a gun.
In the report, an officer said he “applied pressure to (the suspect’s) mandibular angle pressure point below his left ear” to keep him from moving.
In the footage, officers pull the teenager’s handcuffed arms behind his back and toward his head, and he appears to react in pain.
The suspect was arrested and booked on multiple charges, including armed robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Two officers were placed on administrative leave after footage of the boy’s arrest was reviewed. An internal investigation is ongoing.
In a separate incident, on May 23, police said Robert Johnson, 33, resisted arrest and did not comply with commands. But an attorney for Johnson said he did nothing to provoke the officers.
Surveillance footage showed officers punching and kneeing Johnson during the arrest.
Five officers have been placed on leave as a result of the case, according to the Mesa police.