Story by the Associated Press, curated by Jason Howerton
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Civil rights groups called Thursday for a federal investigation of an arrest during which Long Beach police officers were recorded by a cellphone smacking a man with batons as he lay on his back. Meanwhile a separate surveillance video of the arrest appeared to show police hitting him at least 15 times.
The cellphone video posted on YouTube of Monday’s arrest “was brutal and disturbing and again tossed an ugly glare on police officers overuse of excessive force against unarmed suspects,” said a statement from Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable.
Other civil rights groups also called the video disturbing, as did Long Beach Police Chief James McDonnell, but he warned against a rush to judgment.
“It is too early to make any judgments,” McDonnell told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/15AMFo3 ) in an interview Wednesday. “The YouTube video is certainly disturbing. Any time you see someone hit with the baton, there is level of discomfort.”
He promised a complete investigation. The officers involved remained on duty.
Watch the video below (Warning: Graphic content):
The nearly five-minute cellphone video shows police in the Los Angeles suburb hitting Porfirio Santos-Lopez in the legs six times. He kicks back several times. He also is shown being jolted with a stun gun.
Meanwhile, police on Thursday released another video taken by a surveillance camera that shows officers repeatedly striking the man with batons. That video begins earlier in the confrontation than the cellphone video, which was made “at the conclusion of the incident,” police spokeswoman Nancy A. Pratt said.
In a long-distance view, the grainy surveillance video taken Monday evening shows a man backing away from officers while appearing to punch at them. He then falls down backward in the street. Two officers appear to strike him with batons more than a dozen times before backing off. Eventually surrounded by six officers, the man repeatedly kicks out and struggles when they grab him.
Pratt said she was uncertain whether there was any overlap in time between that video and the cellphone video — which only recorded six baton strikes.
Meanwhile, another surveillance video released by police earlier shows the man drinking beer and then arguing with two men on the street before his arrest. He throws something at one, punches the other in the head, and fights with him several times before police arrive.
Police have said that Santos-Lopez, 46, was bloody, shirtless and acting irrationally when officers responded to 911 calls and found him. Authorities say he punched arriving officers, fell down, refused to turn onto his stomach and kicked officers, knocking one in the head.
According to KNBC-TV, Santos-Lopez told authorities he was drunk and high on methamphetamine. He was treated at a hospital for injuries received either before or during the arrest.
Family members have said he had a broken right arm, a partially collapsed lung and other injuries. Police did not immediately confirm the extent of his injuries and there was no immediate word on his condition Thursday.
Santos-Lopez’s girlfriend, Lee Ann Hernandez, told the Times that her boyfriend had recently shown signs of mental illness. He began to hear voices and see people who weren’t there about six months ago, and his condition worsened in recent weeks, she said.
“They had no right to beat him up like that,” she said. “They don’t need to be doing that to someone like that.”
Hernandez said Santos-Lopez had asked police several times to get him psychiatric treatment. However, police officials were unable to immediately verify her claims.