Police Abuse

5 Cops Were 'Justified' in Brutal Beating of Unarmed Black Man, Investigators Say

His crime? Refusing to sit down.

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YouTube/PoliceActivity/Screenshot

Five Phoenix-area cops won't be charged for beating an unarmed black man in a May incident that was captured on video. According to an outside police investigation, "the use of force was legally authorized and justified under Arizona State Law."

On May 23, Mesa Police Department officers responded to a call from a woman who claimed her ex-boyfriend, Erick Reyes, was trying to break into her apartment. When police arrived at her apartment complex, they found Reyes and his friend, 33-year-old Robert Johnson.

Surveillance footage shows Johnson, who lives in the complex, talking on his cellphone before being approached by several officers. The cops searched his pockets (they had heard there could be a weapon on the scene), while Johnson continued his phone call. Then, they motion for him to sit down. In police body camera videos, the officers can be heard repeating this request, CNN reports. While Johnson leaned his back against the wall, he didn't completely sit down.

At that point, four of the officers (later joined by one of their colleagues) attempted to take him down. They punched him in the face, kneed him, and tackled him to the ground. "Sit your ass down, motherfucker," one officer can be heard saying during the altercation, according to The Arizona Republic. "See what happens," one of the officers says.

Surveillance footage of the incident can be seen below:

Why did five cops feel the need to beat an unarmed man? One of the officers claimed Johnson was being confrontational. "Johnson's body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation," the officer wrote in his police report.

Johnson was later charged with disorderly conduct and hindering police, but the charges were dropped in mid-June.

Following the incident, Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista said he was disturbed by this case and another in which officers roughed up a 15-year-old armed robbery suspect after he was already in handcuffs. That incident was also caught on video.

"Let me be crystal clear, I'm angry and I'm deeply disappointed by what I saw in those videos. It's unacceptable and it needs to stop immediately," Batista said. "It's essential when this community interacts with our officers they are treated with the utmost professionalism, no matter the situation. Quite honestly, that's not what I saw in those videos and that will change."

The five officers accused of beating Johnson were placed on administrative leave, and Batista asked the Scottsdale Police Department to investigate their conduct. In a statement released yesterday, investigators said they "thoroughly reviewed eight On Body Camera videos which consisted of just over two hours of footage as well as the apartment complex surveillance video." But they could find no criminal wrongdoing. Scottsdale police shared the results of their investigation with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, who agreed that the incident doesn't warrant criminal charges.

Benjamin Taylor, an attorney for Johnson, blasted the results of the investigation. "When officers can get away with assaulting citizens, people in our community will lose trust in them and our justice system," Taylor said in a statement. "The whole world saw the beating Mr. Johnson took at the hands of these Mesa Police Officers."

Another of Johnson's lawyers, Joel Robbins, says "the only justice" his client will receive "is from a civil jury."

The officers involved in the beating, meanwhile, are still on administrative leave.

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  1. Stop having cops do inquiries of cops.

    These inquiries need to be civilians with maybe one cop as a Law Enforcement perspective voice.

    1. Civilians oversea the US Military. Its a check to military power.

      1. Could you please explain that to them?

      2. Stop with that stupid argument, Agammamon. Granted, police are not part of the standing military branches but that anemic definition of “civilian” is not what the original comment meant and you know it.

        Furthermore, all police are paramilitary forces by definition. They are part of the “government’s monopoly on force”. Calling them “civilians” is just silly. Neither they nor most of the people they police think of them that way.

        1. all police are paramilitary forces by definition

          No. Just no.

          The only way civilian cops could be considered to be paramilitary is if they had the possibility to be engaged in armed combat against a foreign enemy. For example, the National Guard would be a paramilitary organization. Maybe the Border Guard could be considered paramilitary in some circumstances, but city cops, sheriffs deputies and the like, they’re civilians, period.

          1. Sorry, Juice, but that’s not actually the definition of paramilitary. By the way, the National Guard are full-military. They are every bit as much a part of the armed forces branches as the full-time Army, Navy or Air Force.

          2. The real issue here is that police and military are supposed to perform different functions. In broad strokes, the military is there to intervene against foreign nations in war. The police are there to maintain order in civil society at home. Some of that distinction was blurred in the early 1990s with the assaults on the SLA, Ruby Ridge and Waco when the police became militarized in weaponry, uniforms and the like. There has always been a degree of alienation between the police and “the man in the street”, but that alienation has increased and continues to increase. Racism is part of the problem. The greater part of the problem is that when in uniform in most cases the police do not see themselves as part of the community but as apart from and above it. And no, I don’t know how one changes that at this point in our social degeneration.

    2. Agreed. And hold the cops to a HIGHER standard than civilians. If charges are preferred, and the cop is convicted – whatever he’s sentenced to… DOUBLE IT. So if the normal penalty for battery is 2-5 years, and the cop gets 3 years, DOUBLE IT to 6 years. Cops need to know they are accountable.

  2. Dude should be happy all he got was a beat down. They could have just shot him and the result would be the same. Officers went by the book designed to shield them from accountability (thanks unions and politicians!), said officers keep their jobs, don’t get arrested and went home safe. All is good in the world.

    1. Just as every cop is a criminal
      And all the sinners saints
      As heads is tails
      Just call me Lucifer
      ‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint

      So if you meet me
      Have some courtesy
      Have some sympathy, and some taste
      Use all your well-learned politesse
      Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

  3. “shared the results of their investigation with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, who agreed that the incident doesn’t warrant criminal charges.”

    But the officers can be fired, right? Right?

    1. Seriously. My work has a code of conduct. I don’t have to break the law to get fired. And you know what? My work’s handbook doesn’t even feel the need to codify “Don’t call someone a motherfucker while beating them senseless with four buddies for not obeying your unnecessary command.”

      1. Well then, how could you know that that is against the company’s CoC?

    2. Without a criminal conviction? Probably not.

      1. Unless you have to report to Frank Reagan, in which case proper outcomes are almost guaranteed

    3. re: “But the officers can be fired, right?”

      In a just world? Yes.
      In a world filled with public sector unions, perverse negotiation incentives and qualified immunity? Not likely. And even if they do get fired, their current employers have strong incentives to answer reference checks with dates of employment only, so they’ll be right back on the street in some other jurisdiction.

    4. Nah, two weeks of administrative leave is more than enough, that’ll show’em!

  4. I thought politicizing individual cases was wrong? Oh yeah that was last week. Now it is okay to use tragedies to push larger agendas again. Good to know

    1. Cops=Government. Government=Political.

      This case doesn’t need politicizing, Its inherently political from before the media even got word of it.

      1. A fallacy does not stop being one because CoPs!!

        1. The fallacy is claiming people are politicizing things that are inherently political in the first place.

          1. This seems to happen a lot in Arpaio country. Government officials not only above the law, they think they ARE the law.

            I don’t know why anyone lives in Phoenix.

    2. Of course John supports the government agent’s solemn right to beat the shit out of whoever they want without repercussions.

      Of course he does.

    3. In this case, it’s a wrong that must be corrected both at the low-level (getting justice for this case), and in the general (we have seen this happen repeatedly).

      In addition, the solution to the general case (holding police accountable in general) will actually solve and prevent the specific case (holding police accountable in this instance). That is not the case whenever we try and extrapolate issues like gun control or immigration.

  5. Johnson was later charged with disorderly conduct and hindering police, but the charges were dropped in mid-June.

    Well then haven’t those police officers been punished enough?

    1. It is just one case. As a group, police officers are convicted of fewer crimes than the general public. We can’t politicize this one incident to say bad things about cops generally or as evidence of any larger problem

      Reason assured me of this logic just last week

      1. “We can’t politicize this one incident to say bad things about cops generally or as evidence of any larger problem”

        Utter nonsense. Cops are the government. The government is inherently political. The only reason we can’t politicize this incident is because it’s inherently political from the very beginning.

        1. The general principle that single events can be illustrative of a larger issue is true regardless of whether the government is involved. The rules of logic don’t change because the government is involved. If it is wrong to politicize and draw larger conclusions from one incident, it is wrong to do so whether it is a cop or a sacred Mexican.

          Your are making a nonsense distinction to cover up your own hypocrisy

          1. As if conservatives never say “don’t politicize” in the aftermath of mass shootings (except when the perp is a Muslim or a leftist of course)?

            Also, cops do kill people at a higher rate and commit domestic violence at a higher rate. But setting that aside, your logic doesn’t make sense because the action by the state, even discounting the cops’ actions as those of the state, isn’t the same in both cases. The Iowa killer was arrested and charged for the crime. These cops faced no charges and still have their jobs. If the authorities let someone caught on video killing someone go free, no one would say that pointing it out is politicizing and wrong.

          2. No one is suggesting all juries and police departments should be sent to Mexico forever, are they?

            The single event here, like the one last week, is a terrible crime. The perpetrators in both should face real, painful justice. In neither case should people who have similar jobs/life situations be penalized without evidence of individual wrongdoing.

            The difference is that this bunch are government employees taking my money at the point of a gun to commit this crime, so I’m complicit.

          3. “The rules of logic don’t change because the government is involved.”

            True but irrelevant.

            “If it is wrong to politicize and draw larger conclusions from one incident”

            Wrong to draw larger conclusions in this case maybe, but it’s extremely faulty logic to say people are politicizing an incident involving government action.

            It’s government action, it was inherently political before anyone talked about it.

          4. You’re making a nonsense argument to gracefully avoid admitting that you’re a fucking statist that vigorously supports the right of shitty cops to act like assholes

            1. He doesn’t. I don’t. He’s just pointing out Reason’s and many other commenters here’s hypocrisy in the Mollie Tibbetts case.

              1. John is the one being a hypocrite and playing gotcha. Nobody is suggesting all police need to be deported.

                Police need to be held accountable and not allowed to simply review themselves. Is anyone suggesting that only immigrants can investigate and decide if one of them has murdered someone?

            2. I’m not even sure that John is commenting on this specific incident. He may just be making a statement about Reason’s hypocritical and nakedly opportunistic approach to local news. An accurate statement, not incidentally, which John just happens to have commented on this article in specific.

      2. We can, however, use it as an example that there is a command and control system which enables violence and hampers police work.

        We can look at the dozens of police departments that, when investigated, were found to have racist practices up and down the ranks and that this is enforced against those who want to change it, both internal and external.

        You can’t say that cops are racist any more than you can say that immigrants are murderers. But you can say that the system encourages and enables it while preventing change.

        1. Any violence against another race tends to be more vicious. That includes Black against White as well as White against Black.

      3. Of course they are convicted of fewer crimes, because cops stick together. If Internal Affairs units took their job seriously (and didn’t have to report to the Chief of the same force they’re investigating), I’m sure the statistics would be very different.

  6. “Why did five cops feel the need to beat an unarmed man?”

    The answer is contained in the questions. They are cops.

    1. Eric Cartman knows.

      1. Absolutely true.

        It always starts when someone fails to “Respect My Authoritah!”

  7. Wait, one of the cops is also black, so it’s alright.

    Seriously, could we have a two week moratorium on identifying the race or sex of any participants unless it is the sole central fact in the story?
    Think of the exploding heads on one side of the political spectrum without a source of mindless outrage.

    1. The “BLM doesn’t care about bad black cops” meme is stupid because most black people are vaguely aware that bad *black* cops quite literally tend to be ghetto gangstas with badges.

      Think Clockwork Orange + Training Day

  8. Police policy > your rights

  9. they had heard there could be a weapon on the scene

    Why note “they had heard that”? Isn’t it enough that there *could be* a weapon?

    “Johnson’s body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation”.

    Serious question: Is “body language” any more of a science than “bite mark analysis”? Isn’t it possible that, say, Johnson was indicating he was glad to see the officers but just wanted to finish his phone conversation?

    1. There’s no science needed for body language. If someone is getting ready for a fight, they aren’t looking down at their fucking phone. Simple. The cops are lying, pussies, or lying pussies.

    2. No science at all. When one of the cops feels like there might be a possible thread, it’s more than enough for them and their buddies to do whatever they please.

  10. 5 Cops Were ‘Justified’ in Brutal Beating of Unarmed Black Man, Investigators Say
    His crime? Refusing to sit down OBEY.

    FTFY

  11. But…but Kamala Harris said that “[l]ocal law enforcement must be able to use their
    discretion to determine who can carry a concealed weapon”.

    How can an attorney general be so wrong on issues related to law enforcement?

    1. But so right in relation to her lust for power.

    2. Well, consider that Harris also has never understood the purpose of bail in the criminal justice system and you might have some clue as to the answer to your question

  12. While Johnson leaned his back against the wall, he didn’t completely sit down.

    One of the officers claimed Johnson was being confrontational. “Johnson’s body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation,” the officer wrote in his police report.

    I don’t about anyone else, but I always lean my back against a wall when I’m “preparing for a physical altercation” with 5 armed opponents. That’s the best position to attack from. Ask any self defense expert or martial artist. /sarc

  13. Oh yeah? I see your beat down, and raise you one execution style shot to the back of the head:

    North Dakota Cops Pistol Whip Unarmed Man before Shooting him in Back of Head

    1. Pistol whipping him first made the bullet go in easier.

      Always tenderize first. I get these fellows do a mean barbecue.

  14. I remember joking with school friends about those old Trident TV commercials that said, “Four out of five dentists recommend Trident to their patients who chew gum.” The idea was that those four worked for Trident and the fifth did not.

    I don’t see how it’s any different with these police investigating other police. Are people seriously THAT gullible?

    1. Inigo , of course people are

      1. that gullible. look at who they keep electing. lord luv a duck Kalifornians kept electing the demented waters and feinstein and pelosi and brown and newsome and etc, etc, etc.

  15. It was interesting that the headline specified the race (black) of the civilian who received the beating but failed to mention that the officer issuing the order to sit down — who did the most beating — was also black.

    Why was the civilian’s race a factor?

    Is your hypothesis that the black cop doesn’t like black people?

    1. Reason’s hypothesis is that a race baiting article will look better in their portfolio when they apply to Salon.

    2. Why black police don’t have serious psychological problems also?

  16. “The officers involved in the beating, meanwhile, are still on administrative leave.”

    Beat a citizen, get a year long paid vacation. Nice work if you can get it.

  17. “Johnson was later charged with disorderly conduct and hindering police”

    This was a greater abuse of power than the beating. False witness, filing false police reports, unlawful imprisonment.

  18. I examined this incident when it first occurred. First, the cops asked him to sit down SIX times. That’s more than enough chances to do what they asked. Second, when they move in to force him down, he resists. If he sits, or doesn’t resist, that’s the end of the incident. Notice his friend (the original suspect) around the corner who is sitting down? He doesn’t get touched. Police force suspects to sit (often with their legs crossed) so they are less of a flight/fight risk. It’s for their own safety, so yeah, when someone refuses to do so, it raises red flags.

    Let’s not forget why they were there- to break into Reyes’ ex-girlfriend’s apartment. I don’t know why this video doesn’t have audio, but a quick search will reveal the audio version. After the scuffle, Johnson spits at one of the officers, threatens to throw them over the balcony, rape their girlfriends, and calls them every insult in the book. The point is, this wasn’t some innocent kid being roughed up by the mean old cops. Zero sympathies for this loser.

    His attorney went before the press claiming they only asked his client to sit down once before they attacked him. Typical attorney lies. But you won’t see those lies being called out in the news. And you won’t hear his client threatening rape and murder.

    Play stupid games…

    1. I was going to make the same point. Reyes followed instructions and didn’t even get cuffed. His buddy Johnson was obviously looking for a fight. Reyes probably wishing his friend had gone along with the program because it’s turning into a long night.

    2. “Let’s not forget why they were there- to break into Reyes’ ex-girlfriend’s apartment.”

      And YOU know that how?

      Flight risk? From a gaggle of cops? Yeah, sure.

      Maybe he is a loser. But at that moment he wasn’t doing anything to justify getting beat up.

      You are right of course, display complete submission and you (probably) won’t get beat up or killed. Of course another man died recently at the hands of Mesa cops after crawling on the floor for 5 minutes begging for his life so there are no guarantees.

      That is not the way it should be.

      But it is because of people like you.

    3. Yup. 99% of these situations there are obvious break points in the line of events where you can see exactly why somebody got beat down/shot. The guy might not have deserved to be beat down THIS hard, but forcing him to the ground with a touch of violence wouldn’t be entirely uncalled for.

      Plus you gotta remember these cops are dealing with shit bags like this ALL DAY EVERY DAY. I’m sure that gets tiring after awhile. That’s not an excuse, but it is a reason that this stuff happens.

      This is why I pretty much always kiss cop ass when I interact with them.

  19. “the use of force was legally authorized and justified under Arizona State Law.”

    Then apparently Arizona law would allow several citizens to beat the crap out of an Arizona cop, wouldn’t it?

    I suggest that if Arizona law allows such conduct, then Arizona law is an ass.

  20. Obviously the perp was backsassing.

  21. Who says that some police don’t have some very serious psychological issues?

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