Arizona police department at center of beating video was already under fire

Posted at 7:23 AM, Jun 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-07 09:23:18-04

MESA, Ariz. – Four police officers in Mesa, Arizona are on leave following an incident last month where a suspect was seen on video being punched several times.

The surveillance video shows 33-year-old Robert 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.  

"I am disappointed," said Ramon Batista, Mesa police chief. "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. A woman had called saying her ex-boyfriend, who is a friend of Johnson’s, tried breaking into her apartment.

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

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.

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.