Mesa, Arizona Cops Beat Unarmed Black Man, Placed On Leave With Pay After Video Surfaces

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Mesa, Arizona – Four police officers in Mesa, Arizona, are on leave following an incident last month, where an African-American man, 33-year-old Robert Johnson was seen on video being violently punched several times.


The surveillance video shows Johnson leaning against a wall using his phone, and police ask him to sit down. When he didn’t immediately comply, the officers repeatedly punch and knee him before Johnson collapses.

“Black Police showing out for the white cop…” – Ice Cube 1988

The most egregious portion of the surveillance video shows was the worst parts of the beating were from the hands of the Black Cop’s hands. The Black Police Officer can be seen violently striking Johnson who never raised a hand or attempted to fight back, at least six times in the face, and kneeing him in the mid section at least twice this he collapsed like the officer was in a street fight for his life. The Black Officer can be seen as the most aggressive of the six officers on the video.

“He [Johnson] was crouching down but they came over and pretty much beat him up before he could do anything,” said Benjamin Taylor, Johnson’s attorney.

Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista, Mesa said he is disappointed in the actions of his officers, who are part of a police department that has been under scrutiny before for excessive force.

“I am disappointed,” Chief Batista said. “There’s going to be a special directive that says that we will not strike someone in the face or in the head unless they are showing us active aggression.”

At the time, police were responding to a domestic violence call at an apartment complex, according to police officials. A woman had called saying her ex-boyfriend, who is a friend of Johnson’s, tried breaking into her apartment.

Johnson’s attorney said it’s a clear case of excessive force. “He wasn’t doing anything wrong. They searched him, they patted him down and they went over to the wall and they beat him up,” Taylor said.

Batista recently took over a department already reeling from a string of complaints. An internal review is underway after Facebook photos went viral of bruises caused by a Mesa police officer on an 84-year-old grandmother.

Taylor, an attorney representing Johnson, released the following statement Tuesday evening:

On May 23rd, 2018, Robert Johnson was beaten by multiple Mesa Police officers while others looked on. Mr. Johnson was cooperative and following police instructions. Mr. Johnson was sitting peacefully against a wall when the assault began.He did not resist. The misconduct of these officers would have gone unnoticed if it had not been captured by surveillance videos at the apartment complex where the assault occurred.

We hope and pray that the Mesa Police Department will accept responsibility for the misconduct of these officers. Mesa must take concrete steps to ensure that culpable officers are disciplined, retrained, or dismissed. The Mesa Police Department must develop a law enforcement culture that meets community and constitutional norms and ensures that police and citizens go home safely after police interactions.

The U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil-rights violation investigation after video surfaced showing a Mesa police officer fatally shooting Daniel Shaver in January 2016. Shaver was unarmed, and the officer, Philip Brailsford, was later acquitted of murder and removed from the police force.

Batista took the job as Mesa’s police chief just last year. He moved quickly to release the videos after a local pastor told him about the incident last week. Three officers and one sergeant involved have been placed on paid administrative leave.

Johnson faces charges of disorderly conduct and hindering prosecution. His attorney, Benjamin Taylor, said they want the charges dropped and are exploring legal options, including a lawsuit.

The video has prompted outrage from some civil rights groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has called the arrest “horrific and another incident of the endemic police violence against people of color,” and said, “Nothing about Johnson’s behavior in the video justifies this brutality.”

A police officer in an arrest report said that Johnson refused an order to sit down and instead leaned against a wall, which the officer believed allowed Johnson – who showed no sign of aggression – to have “a strong base in the wall to fight off of.”Another attorney assisting in Johnson’s case, Joel Robbins, said Johnson was there to help a friend and neighbor gather some belongings. He and Taylor said they disagree with claims in the arrest report.

“After a police attack, an unjustified police attack, it is frequently the response of the police to say, ‘It was their fault,’ ” Robbins said. “The police are the ones that get to write the report and say what they said happened.”

After the encounter, the Mesa Police Department changed its use-of-force policy so that officers can hit people in the head or face only if they become physically violent, officials said.

An investigation into any criminal conduct that may have occurred in May 23 incident is being conducted by Scottsdale police, Mesa police said Thursday. An internal investigation by Mesa police is also ongoing, police said.

That officer wrote that he then decided to “detain Johnson as soon as possible to prevent him from formulating a strategy.”

A police sergeant wrote in the arrest report that Johnson was belligerent. He said he pushed Johnson’s head into an elevator door after it appeared that Johnson was trying to spit at officers.

Another attorney assisting in Johnson’s case, Joel Robbins, said Johnson was there to help a friend and neighbor gather some belongings. He and Taylor said they disagree with claims in the arrest report.

“After a police attack, an unjustified police attack, it is frequently the response of the police to say, ‘It was their fault,’ ” Robbins said. “The police are the ones that get to write the report and say what they said happened.”

After the encounter, the Mesa Police Department changed its use-of-force policy so that officers can hit people in the head or face only if they become physically violent, officials said.

An investigation into any criminal conduct that may have occurred in May 23 incident is being conducted by Scottsdale police, Mesa police said Thursday. An internal investigation by Mesa police is also ongoing, police said.

Johnson said he wants changes in the Mesa Police Department so that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“I am a family man and a God-fearing person,” Johnson, said at a news conference at a Mesa church, occasionally becoming emotional. “I want Mesa to be held accountable for what, what they have done.”

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AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company.
AJ is a Father, Author, Writer, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.

You can also hear AJ every Tuesday morning on The Bob Marrone show on WVOX 1460 AM

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