Devin Conley and Patricio G. Espinoza

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mesa police investigate accusations of excessive force against jaywalker

MESA – Mesa police are investigating claims two officers beat a man who was jaywalking after a video emerged of them striking him as he struggled with them on the ground.

Jason Barton, who ran from officers who were trying to stop him, said the police had only stopped him because he is black.

“It was uncalled for,” Barton said at a news conference this week about the June 19 encounter.

Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a civil rights activist, accused Mesa police of “systemic, racial profiling.”

“People are very angry about the beating,” Maupin said. “It’s a critical time for our community. We’re encouraging everyone to remain nonviolent.”

Barton told arresting officers, the reason he ran was because he had marijuana on him and did not want to be arrested, according to Mesa police spokesman Det. Steve Berry and a police report. He also had a warrant out for his arrest.

Barton has been accused of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, obstructing government operations and resisting arrest.

Mesa officers have been encouraged since May to pursue jaywalkers because of pedestrian fatalities in the city, Berry said. The city has had 10 deaths this year because of similar situations.

Mesa police are investigating the two officers, who remain on duty, to see if they followed proper protocol, Berry said. No official complaint has been filed with the department.

Maupin sent a 35-second video to media organizations on Wednesday and Mesa police confirmed the video’s accuracy. Police also, on Thursday, provided body-camera videos.

The witness’s video shows a man on the ground and two police officers trying to handcuff him and hitting him as he struggles.

The body cam videos, including one more than five minutes long, show police and Barton scuffling, with police saying “stop resisting” several times and “why did you run?” Barton says “Oh my God,” several times throughout the encounter.

The acts in the body-camera videos show police using “striking gestures” toward Barton as the officers attempt to place Barton in handcuffs while he is fighting back, according to Berry.

“Both the suspect’s hands were under his body which usually worries us,” Berry said. It’s police protocol to chase after anyone who runs.

In a debriefing after the arrest police asked Barton about the bag of marijuana they found while struggling with him, as seen in a video supplied by Mesa police. Barton claimed that the bag was his. When asked if he had a medical marijuana card he said he didn’t have one, but was planning to get one, according to body-camera footage.

Maupin said Thursday Barton does have a medical-marijuana card and should have gotten medical attention for injuries that included cuts to his knees, elbows and wrists, a police report shows.

“He was never given a lawful command not to run,” Maupin said. “The whole arrest was illegal.”

A police report released Thursday said the encounter started when Barton crossed Extension Road, against the “don’t walk” sign, at the Main Street intersection.

The official report states verbatim:

“On the listed data and time officers, Officers contacted the defendant after observing him in violation of ARS 28-646A2. Walking against the don’t walk sign. Upon contacting the defendant with a fully marked patrol vehicle with flashing lights activated, he ignored commands to stop and sit down and immediately ran from the officers on scene. After a short foot pursuit the defendant was forced to the ground by officers. The defendant continued to ignore commands and resist arrest. The defendant fought out of control holds by officers and reach down towards his pockets and removed a baggy containing green leafy substance. During the physical altercation, the defendant attempted to discard the baggy as he was being placed under arrest at approximately 2208 hours. The defendant was identified as Jason Barton by his MVD information and photo. The defendant has a valid Phoenix City warrant for his arrest that was confirmed by dispatch. Under Miranda warning, the defendant identified the green leafy substance as marijuana and stated he did not have a medical marijuana card. The green leafy substance was later tested and positively identified as marijuana. The defendant was transported to Mesa City Jail where he was booked for the listed charges.”

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