Newly released bodycam footage shows police officers patting down 17-year-old London Wallace as he stood with his arms behind his head.
When another officer pointed and ordered him to sit in a corner, the teen complied and began walking in that direction.
Before Wallace could sit down, Fresno, Calif., police officer Christopher Martinez grabbed the teen by the arm and began punching him several times in the face as he wrestled him to the ground, reports The Washington Post.
In a police report written after the altercation, Martinez accused Wallace of “resisting” arrest and fighting back.
Martinez claimed that the punches were necessary to restrain him.
But Wallace’s attorney, Nolan Kane, disputed officer Martinez’s account in a complaint filed in Fresno County Superior Court, citing newly released body-camera footage that raises doubts about the officer’s claims.
Kane accused the department of using excessive force while breaking up a party eight months ago.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer acknowledged the video was alarming and promised a full investigation late last month.
“The video I have reviewed certainly raises concerns and raises questions for me as a police chief,” he said. “Those questions will be answered.”
The Post reports:
The Jan. 23 incident unfolded after police arrived at Fenix Apartments, just north of downtown Fresno, to conduct a probation search, according to a police report provided by Kane. More than a dozen men within the second-floor apartment were ordered outside, including Wallace, who is seen on video being searched as his peers watch from the ground. In the police report, Martinez said Wallace “was not listening” when instructed to sit with the others. He alleged Wallace walked in the opposite direction and became combative when confronted.
“I believed Wallace was going to attempt to flee down the stairs … I gave Wallace a chance to sit on his own, but he still did not sit down as I told him to,” Martinez wrote. When Martinez grabbed the teen’s right arm to “regain control,” he said, “Wallace pushed me back and took a fighting stance … I was in fear Wallace was going to push me and other Officers over the side railing as he was pushing forward.”
He continued, “I punched Wallace approximately three times in the face in order to get him off me and to back him up.”
Martinez appears to have thrown at least eight punches toward Wallace’s head within seconds of grabbing his arm, body-camera video shows.
Kane said the punches left the teen with a broken nose and other facial injuries.
The teen can be heard yelling that he didn’t do anything as he was placed in handcuffs.
Martinez wrote that he struck Wallace two more times “while he was on the ground and actively resisting, refusing to place his hands behind his back and trying to fight back.”
Police arrested Wallace on suspicion of resisting arrest, but prosecutors did not pursue the charges, Kane said. He added Wallace was not in possession of any weapons or drugs, as evidenced by the search shown in the video. Other responding officers wrote in the report that the men inside the apartment were known gang members, but Kane said his client has no gang affiliation or criminal history.
Wallace, he said, posed no threat to the officer that warranted such a violent response.
“We’re very fortunate we have this body-camera video, because if we’re going by just the words of the officers, it’d paint a completely different picture,” Kane said in an interview.