(PHOENIX) — The attorney for an Arizona man seen on police video being beaten and mocked while bleeding on a hospital floor last winter said Thursday that it’s further evidence an already embattled suburban Phoenix police department has a pattern of acting above the law.
For the third time this month, body camera videos from the Mesa Police Department have put the agency’s policies on the use of force under scrutiny.
Defense attorney Bret Royle said he recently obtained videos from the January arrest of Jose Luis Conde while negotiating a plea deal for him. Royle said the footage paints a more brutal picture than what he read in police reports.
“When officers act like this, it causes citizens to question the integrity of other officers,” Royle said during a news conference at his office. “They violated the trust of prosecutors when they wrote reports that were at minimum embellished if not falsified.”
Conde is facing two counts of resisting arrest and one count each of aggravated assault, possession or use of narcotic drugs and escape.
The 23-year-old landscape worker was a passenger in a car Mesa police stopped Jan. 28 for possible drunken driving. An officer did a pat-down search of him and believed he was concealing drugs, according to the police incident report.
The officer then thought Conde was going to attack him and took him to the ground. He continued to struggle and allegedly swung his fists at the officer. They later found three baggies appearing to contain cocaine inside his sock.
While two officers sustained scrapes, Conde was transported to a hospital. Police said Conde tried to flee his hospital room but was caught in the hallway and pushed back by officers.
Video shows an officer punched and elbowed Conde four times while he was handcuffed. Conde said they also threw him into a wall, gouged him in the eye and struck his head with a large flashlight. He also said doctors had to sew part of his ear back on.
In another body cam video, an officer follows a nurse into the hospital as she says Conde had “bolted” and is in a hall. The officer comes upon three officers standing over Conde, who is laying on the ground bleeding from his head. Medical staff is tending to him.
“You got to be a man, man. Man up,” the arriving officer says.
The officers then laugh at something the nurse says.
“They laughed at me while I laid in a pool of my own blood, barely conscious. And this is no laughing matter,” Conde said.
He said it’s unacceptable that the officers involved have not been disciplined. “My hope is that my case can bring meaningful change to the Mesa Police Department,” Conde said.
In a statement, police Chief Ramon Batista said Conde’s arrest is under review but the videos don’t tell the whole story. The police, Bautista said, will appropriately review any incident that comes to their attention.
“In recent weeks, the Mesa Police Department and our community have experienced some significant challenges. Please be assured that we will get through this difficult period together and emerge even stronger,” Batista said.
Last week, the chief enlisted a former prosecutor to investigate two other videotaped encounters. Internal investigations are also underway in those cases, and the police department in nearby Scottsdale will investigate and make recommendations to prosecutors about possible charges.
Footage from body and security cameras shows Mesa officers roughly treating a teenager who was arrested May 17 on suspicion of armed robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The footage shows officers cursing the youth and grabbing the collar of his T-shirt tightly around his neck.
In the other case, video shows Mesa officers punching 33-year-old Robert Johnson several times as he stands against a wall while looking at his phone on May 23. Police were responding to a report that another man was attempting to break into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. Johnson was standing near that suspect at the time.
Mesa City Court on Wednesday granted prosecutors’ motion to dismiss disorderly conduct and hindering prosecution charges against Johnson.
“We expect the officers involved in the beating of my client to face disciplinary action and termination within the Mesa Police Department,” Johnson’s attorney, Benjamin Taylor, said in a statement Thursday.
Seven officers have been placed on administrative leave with pay — two in the teen’s arrest and five in the case involving Johnson.