Officers who punched Arizona man: He was prepping to fight

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A report from the May 23 incident in Mesa states the man, 33-year-old Robert Johnson, was “verbally defiant and confrontational.” (Source: Mesa Police Department) A report from the May 23 incident in Mesa states the man, 33-year-old Robert Johnson, was “verbally defiant and confrontational.” (Source: Mesa Police Department)
Johnson’s attorney, Benjamin Taylor, said his client was not a threat and had already been searched. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Johnson’s attorney, Benjamin Taylor, said his client was not a threat and had already been searched. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Audio-free surveillance footage from the apartment complex where the incident took place shows Johnson standing against a wall, looking at his phone, while Reyes is sitting on the ground nearby. (Source: Mesa Police Department) Audio-free surveillance footage from the apartment complex where the incident took place shows Johnson standing against a wall, looking at his phone, while Reyes is sitting on the ground nearby. (Source: Mesa Police Department)
“Johnson’s body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation,” one of the officers wrote in the report. (Source: Mesa Police Department) “Johnson’s body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation,” one of the officers wrote in the report. (Source: Mesa Police Department)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Police involved in the beating of an Arizona man who on video doesn’t appear to resist or attack officers say his body language was projecting that he was preparing to fight.

A report from the May 23 incident in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa states the man, 33-year-old Robert Johnson, was “verbally defiant and confrontational.” Mesa police released the report, along with footage from police-worn cameras, on Wednesday afternoon after video released by Johnson’s attorneys circulated this week, raising criticism over the handling of the incident.

[READ MORE: Mesa PD releases body-cam video of police beating man]

But Johnson’s attorney, Benjamin Taylor, said his client was not a threat and had already been searched. Johnson was charged with disorderly conduct and hindering prosecution.

Three officers and a sergeant are on leave while the department investigates.

Officers were responding to a call from a woman who said her ex-boyfriend was trying to break into her apartment, police said. Police arrived and found the ex-boyfriend, Erick Reyes, 20, along with Johnson. Both were detained.

[READ MORE: Mesa police sergeant, 3 officers on leave after beating video]

Audio-free surveillance footage from the apartment complex where the incident took place shows Johnson standing against a wall, looking at his phone, while Reyes is sitting on the ground nearby.

Officers approach Johnson and punch him numerous times. They pull him to the ground and flip him over. Johnson never appears to threaten or resist the officers. He was unarmed.

“Johnson’s body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation,” one of the officers wrote in the report. “It appeared Johnson was trying not to sit down in order to retain a position of physical advantage by remaining on his feet.”

Will Biascoechea, the president of the police union that represents two of the officers involved, said in a statement that the incident was more complex than what is shown in the video.

“To add some context to the video, it is important to understand that the officers were responding to a ‘domestic dispute’ that included a subject attempting to force his way into an apartment as well as the report of the presence of a gun,” Biascoechea wrote. “At this point, we urge caution and patience rather than a rush to judgment.”

The department has been criticized in the past for incidents involving use of force as police departments nationwide have also faced scrutiny. A former Mesa officer who was fired for violating department policy was tried but acquitted on a murder charge in the 2016 fatal shooting of a Texas man who was unarmed and on the ground.

Taylor said Johnson was not a threat and had already been searched when police started punching him.

“He’s a good guy, and he didn’t deserve to be beat up,” Taylor said. The lawyer said he wants the charges against Johnson dropped.

Johnson was scheduled to speak to reporters later Thursday afternoon.

The Mesa Police Department released the following statement:

On May 30, 2018 Pastor Andre Miller, a Mesa resident, contacted Chief Batista regarding a surveillance video depicting a use of force incident. The Chief immediately initiated an internal investigation by our Professional Standards Unit. Four members involved in the incident (one Sergeant and three Officers) were removed from active duty and placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

  The incident in question occurred on May 23, 2018 when officers were called to 701 E. Main regarding a Domestic Disturbance with a firearm in the apartment.  A female caller advised that her ex-boyfriend was at the apartment with a second male subject and was trying to force his way into the apartment.  Officers arrived a short time later and detained both male subjects. The males were later identified as 20-year-old Erick Reyes (the ex-boyfriend) and 33-year-old Robert Johnson. Johnson was charged with Disorderly Conduct and Hindering Prosecution. Reyes was charged with Disorderly Conduct DV and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

During their contact with Mr. Johnson, a use of force incident occurred which was captured on surveillance footage from the apartment as well as multiple body worn camera angles. The surveillance footage was released yesterday (06/05/18) along with Chief Batista conducting on camera interviews with multiple local news agencies about this incident.

In these interviews Chief Batista confirmed three officers and a sergeant were removed from active duty and placed on administrative leave. Chief Batista spoke about a special directive ordering a prohibition on face, head, and neck strikes unless there is active aggression being exhibited by an individual toward the officer. He discussed his vision for the culture he wants within Mesa Police to include communication, respect, and professionalism in every encounter inclusive of a review of policy, procedure and training.

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