7 Ariz. officers suspended in 2 UOF probes

Seven officers involved in the separate incidents have been suspended without pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation

By PoliceOne Staff

MESA, Ariz. — Seven Arizona officers have been suspended in two separate use-of-force incidents that occurred last month.

The East Valley Tribune reports that seven officers involved in the incidents have been suspended without pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Mesa Police Department Chief Ramon Batista arranged for the Police Executive Research Forum to review all UOF incidents from the past three years to make recommendations on how to eliminate excessive force.

The move comes after video of officers arresting 33-year-old Robert Johnson went viral. The video appeared to show officers punching Johnson, who refused to comply with police commands to sit down.

Five officers were suspended in Johnson’s arrest. On May 23, police were called after 20-year-old Erick Hernandez Reyes, Johnson’s friend, tried to force his way inside his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. Reyes reportedly brought Johnson as reinforcement.

The body cam footage shows Reyes following police commands while Johnson refused to sit down and leaned against a wall and bent his head forward. One officer wrote in a police report that he believed Johnson was girding himself for a fight.

After apprehending Johnson, an officer said Johnson was about to spit on him as police escorted him down an elevator. The officer responded by pushing Johnson’s face against the elevator door.

Batista released the footage of the incident, which he said triggered new policy that restricts when it’s permissible to strike a suspect in the head. Police later released body cam footage of Johnson’s arrest.

Johnson was arrested on suspicion of hindering investigation and disorderly conduct.

Former Attorney Rick Romley was lured out of retirement to monitor the internal investigations into the actions of the five officers involved in Johnson’s arrest. Scottsdale police are also conducting a criminal investigation into the five officers’ actions to see if they should face any charges.

In a separate incident, two officers were suspended after recently released video showed a juvenile gang member accused of armed robbery screaming in pain during an arrest on May 17. Batista called the video of the juvenile’s arrest “disturbing.”

The juvenile’s arrest stemmed from an incident at a convenience store, where an armed robbery with a shotgun and an attempt to steal a car occurred. The suspects reportedly smashed a customer’s windshield and pointed a gun towards the store, forcing customers to hide in an office.

After police apprehended the suspects, a male suspect can be seen on video twisting and turning as an officer put his foot between the juvenile’s shoulders to keep him from getting up. One officer wrote in a report that police later brought the suspect to a patrol car, where the officer applied pressure on the suspect’s mandibular angle in order to allow another officer to search for a gun.

Officers eventually found a shotgun inside a backpack on a nearby patio.

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