Four Mesa cops, three officers and a sergeant, have been placed on leave by the police chief following the release of disturbing surveillance footage showing the unprovoked lynching of an unarmed black man. The video shows the officers surrounding the unsuspecting man and summarily beating him to the ground with no justification.
According to Buzzfeed:
The footage, recorded late on the night of May 23, shows a man, who has since been identified by his attorneys as Robert Johnson, standing against a rail in his apartment building talking on the phone. Another man can be seen sitting against a wall talking to an officer. An elevator door then opens, and several more officers emerge, and proceed to approach and frisk Johnson.
Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista was tipped off about the video by a “member of the community”. Batista told news outlets that the video was sent to him by that member.
The person wrote, ‘”Hey, this looks very alarming, and I need you to look at it,'” Batista told Fox 10 News. “I examined it, and I immediately opened up an investigation.”
That is when Batista released the video to the public as a show of transparency. The police chief confirmed that no weapons were found on Johnson and per initial reports officers asked Johnson to move away from the railing, stand by the wall behind him, and then sit down.
In the video Johnson complies with the officers’ orders and is not threatening or aggressive. He remains calm while talking on his cell phone. Johnson then leans against the wall next to the elevator when out of nowhere several officers exit the elevator and swarm Johnson. He is repeatedly beaten, shoved, and punched in the face and head before being taken to the ground. The officers then drag Johnson and handcuff him.
Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista said that Johnson was not fully compliant when he did not obey orders to sit down but acknowledged that his officers used an unnecessary amount of force on Johnson.
“I don’t feel that our officers were at their best,” he said. “I don’t feel this situation needed to go the way that it went.”
The department is investigating the incident. Batista is also implementing new use of force policies to “limit the opportunity where we will apply strikes to a person’s face or head absent the supporting conditions for that to occur,” and ensure more “stringent reporting of these events.”
Initial reports do not state the reason the officers were on the property to begin with but Johnson, who lives in the building, was on the third floor that night to help his friend according to Benjamin Taylor, his attorney. The other man seen in the video sitting against the wall is the friend that Johnson was assisting. Taylor says his client was “cooperative and following police instructions.”
“Mr. Johnson was sitting peacefully against a wall when the assault began.He did not resist,” the lawyer said in a joint statement with fellow attorney Joel Robbins and pastor Andre Miller. “The misconduct of these officers would have gone unnoticed if it had not been captured by surveillance videos at the apartment complex where the assault occurred.”
Johnson is still recovering from his injuries and undergoing treatment according to Taylor.
“He’s doing terribly,” Taylor told BuzzFeed News Wednesday night. “He did not deserve the beating he took from that many officers. Mesa police have a culture of hurting and shooting and killing people and this is just another incident that shows how badly this department needs to be cleaned up.”