They Asked Him to Sit; He Didn't. Then, a Beating

Mesa Police Department is investigating the incident
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2018 12:56 PM CDT

(Newser) – Robert Johnson was leaning against the wall, looking at his cell phone, when it happened: Police officers surrounded the unarmed man and, in a scene caught on surveillance video May 23 in Mesa, Ariz., started punching and kneeing him until he fell to the ground. Now the Mesa Police Department has placed a police sergeant and three officers on administrative leave while the incident is investigated, CNN reports. Even so, the Mesa Police Association says Johnson "was not compliant and physically resisted what we feel was a lawful detention." Johnson, 33, was at the apartment building where he lives, but he was accompanying a friend who, police say, was attempting to get into an ex-girlfriend's apartment just before midnight. Police responded to the scene after someone called 911 and said there was possibly a weapon at the apartment.

The officers approached Johnson and the friend, searched Johnson and found him unarmed, then asked him to sit down by the wall. Instead, he leaned against the wall. In bodycam video released by the police department, police can be heard telling Johnson to sit down before starting to hit him, AZFamily.com reports. Police Chief Ramon Batista says the fact that Johnson was leaning against the wall and what he said to the officers made them feel he needed to sit down, though Batista didn't reveal what Johnson allegedly said. And the police union says the surveillance video that was released "does not include the full context of the encounter." But Johnson's lawyer insists his client "wasn't resisting. He was unarmed and then they just attacked." Batista says he's "disappointed" by what the video shows and that the department will instruct officers not to hit anyone in the head if the person isn't attempting to harm them. Johnson's lawyer wants the disorderly conduct charges that were filed against his client dropped. (Read more police brutality stories.)

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