Civil rights lawsuit accuses Long Beach police of excessive force against Black man having mental health crisis

Local news

A Black man who was beaten by a Long Beach police officer in February while being placed in custody has alleged in a lawsuit that officers used excessive force when they should have recognized he was in the midst of a mental health crisis, attorneys for the man announced Tuesday.

Eugene Martindale III, 25, was seeking help during a mental health episode on Feb. 15 when a 7-Eleven security guard used a stun gun on him and police arrived to violently arrest him, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Tuesday.

A video captured by a witness during the incident shows an officer swinging a baton at Martindale’s legs as two other officers hold him down on the ground near Fourth Street and Atlantic Avenue.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Long Beach Police Department said the officers were responding to reports of a man who was “being disruptive at a local business and was climbing on vehicles and attempting to gain entry into both empty and occupied vehicles.”

Police said the February incident ended with Martindale arrested on suspicion of attempted carjacking, and that he was convicted of two counts of felony resisting arrest and was sentenced to three years’ probation.

The suit contends that Martindale was suffering from a mental health episode on the day of the incident, and was desperately trying to call his father.

“Martindale is African American and has a mental disability which at times causes him to seek assistance from bystanders to call his father to pick him up,” according to the lawsuit, which notes Martindale doesn’t have a cell phone of his own.

The suit alleges that while Martindale was on the ground, an officer placed him in a “painful wrist lock” despite Martindale stating, “I’m not trying to resist arrest!”

The suit also alleges that another officer “pinned Martindale down and placed him in a carotid control hold,” to which Martindale cried, “I can’t breathe!”

“Once again, we have an unarmed Black man, who was brutalized by law enforcement,” Attorney Toni Jaramilla said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “For those of you who say- ‘you just have to cooperate with law enforcement if you do not want to get hurt’- Mr. Martindale’s case shows that even if you cooperate, you place your hand in surrender position to show you have no weapons, you drop to the ground as told, you don’t resist, law enforcement may still beat you for no apparent reason, other than perhaps the color of your skin.”

The lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, alleges excessive force, negligence, unlawful arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other issues. It also names four Long Beach police officers, 7-Eleven and a security guard as defendants.

The Long Beach City Attorney’s Office said it had not yet received a copy of the suit and did not have a comment, according to Howard Russell, principal deputy city attorney.

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