A video showing Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) officers using a taser and batons to allegedly subdue a suspect has garnered scrutiny from witnesses and residents who say the use of force was excessive.
The cell phone video was recorded Monday evening at 6PM in the intersection of Locust Ave. and South St. where officers had responded to an "incomplete 911 call," a call that is ultimately disconnected before the dispatcher is able to fully identify the problem. The caller had provided an address before disconnecting, sending LBPD patrols to the scene before they received a second call in regard to a fight in progress in front of a liquor store at the same intersection.
The cell phone video shows four officers not long after responding to the call, surrounding a shirtless man that police identified as 46 year-old Porfirio Santos-Lopez, who was lying on the ground on his back. One officer repeatedly uses a taser on the suspect and another officer then uses his baton to hit the suspect in the legs and other lower parts of the body as the suspect appears to not be trying to get up. Santos-Lopez can be heard yelling something at the officers during the ordeal, but it is unknown what he was saying.
The incident caught on camera lasts around five minutes and ends when additional officers arrive and arrest the suspect, but it doesn't tell the whole story, police say.
"Upon arrival--before the video [was recorded]--the suspect immediately became aggressive and irrational," said Sgt. Aaron Eaton of the LBPD. "He wouldn't listen to any of the officers' commands and at one point, asked the officers to kill him. Following, he reached down and punched the asphalt in front of him numerous times, while communicating to officers in a mix of both English and Spanish. We also communicated in both languages to further efforts to restrain him and as we approached, he began flinging his fists at officers."
It was at this point that one of the officers used a taser on the suspect, which caused him to fall to the ground.
"Many ask, 'Why don't you just jump on top of him?' Well, here we have an individual who was asking to be killed, punching at officers and asphalt, and even attempting to kick an officer in the face at one point. We had to provide him time to take direction."
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After what police say was a continual "failure to understand directions" and an "inability to safely put [the suspect] on his stomach to properly detain him," officers then began to beat the suspect with batons and taser him again to subdue him, which is what was caught on video.
"His teeth were not knocked out [as noted by the bystander filming the amateur video]," Eaton said. "The suspect had a partial dental bridge that during the incident, he removed himself and threw onto the ground."
In a surveillance video from the liquor store police provided to local TV news outlets, a shirted Santos-Lopez can be seen in the minutes before the 911 call walking up to a man standing at a truck outside the store and attacking him, seemingly unprovoked.
Police say that officers felt the erratic behavior could have possibly been due to alcohol intoxication. Santos-Lopez later admitted to officers that he was high on methanphetamines.
Santos-Lopez is currently in the hospital recovering from his injuries, though it is unclear whether those were police-inflicted, self-inflicted or from his previous altercation. Eaton said when Santos-Lopez is discharged, he likely will be booked for battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, battery on the individual he was fighting with in front of the liquor store and public intoxication.
A use-of-force investigation was opened up Tuesday to determine if the baton strikes and use of taser was within policy; command staff will also review training procedures and consider whether there is room for improvement. In the meantime, the officers involved in the arrest remain on duty.
Additional reporting by Brian Addison.