Mesa officers on leave after beating video goes public

MESA, Ariz. (KPHO/KTVK) – Surveillance video, released Tuesday, shows Mesa police officers becoming violent with a man at an apartment complex for, seemingly, no good reason.

Shortly before midnight on May 23, a man is seen next to an elevator and is approached by several officers. After a short exchange of words, the officers are seen on video attacking the man, punching him repeatedly as he is on the floor.

The incident, which happened at an apartment complex near Main Street and Horne, has prompted Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista to place three officers and one sergeant on administrative leave while internal investigators look into the matter.

“It is disappointing because this isn’t the way I see the people that I work with and the community that we serve,” Batista said.

Batista said the man who was punched, identified as 33-year-old Robert Johnson, was there with a friend, and that Johnson’s friend was allegedly trying to enter his ex-girlfriend’s apartment, which prompted her to call 911.

An officer approached Johnson in the video and patted him down to ensure that he was not armed. When other officers arrived, after the pat-down, they commanded Johnson to sit down but he refused– and that’s when they punched him repeatedly.

Johnson was cited for disorderly conduct and hindering, police said.

Benjamin 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.

We plan on holding a press conference Thursday, June 7, 2018 to discuss this incident and the culture of violence at the Mesa Police Department.

The Mesa Police Association also released a statement Tuesday, criticizing the Mesa police chief’s decision to release the surveillance video.

The Mesa Police Association feels it is grossly inappropriate to release a portion of video with no audio that does not include the full context of the encounter. Furthermore, we don’t understand why video is being released when an internal investigation has not been completed. It is important to understand that any use of force, when viewed, is difficult to watch and never looks “good.”

Mesa police said they plan to release additional video related to this incident later this week.

By Catherine Mejia