by Dale Chappell
The FBI is reviewing four incidents of excessive force by Mesa, Arizona, police officers in the span of just four months, some after an “independent” investigation cleared the involved officers of any wrongdoing.
In one incident that occurred May 23, 2018, Mesa police were investigating a domestic disturbance call when four officers approached Robert Johnson, who was not involved in the incident and told him to sit on the ground. Johnson ignored their request and kept talking on his cellphone. Minutes later, Johnson was knocked unconscious by police and dragged away in cuffs.
A video of the 17-minute beating by police showed officers throwing Johnson to the ground and beating him, even after he was clearly unconscious on the ground. “See, that’s what happens,” yelled one officer as they carried Johnson off.
Johnson was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and hindering prosecution, but the charges were later dropped. When the video was made public, Mesa Police Sergeant Ramon Batista said, “I don’t feel that our officers were at their best.” The four officers were placed on paid vacation during the investigation.
Three months later, the nearby Scottsdale, Arizona, Police Department cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, concluding the use of force was “legally authorized” under Arizona law. The police union criticized the video, saying the video “captures just one perspective without context.”
“This is a sad day for the people of Arizona,” Benjamin Taylor, Johnson’s lawyer said. “The whole world saw the beating Mr. Johnson took,” he said. “When officers can get away with assaulting citizens, people in our community will lose trust in them.”
One day after Scottsdale police cleared the officers, the FBI announced it would investigate Johnson’s case and several others involving the Mesa Police Department.
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