PHOENIX — Police in Mesa are looking into whether one or more officers may have used excessive force during the arrest of a man Thursday.
Video of the arrest was captured then put on YouTube and appears to show at least two officers striking 40-year-old Juan Arizmendi several times on his head and body while he was being restrained on the ground. One officer also appears to shove Arizmendi’s head into the pavement.
“Clearly the officers delivered several strikes, trying to get compliance and get his hands behind him,” Mesa Police Detective Steve Berry said. “Within a short period of time they were able to do that and that was the point where the entire situation deescalated from there.”
Arizmendi was originally taken into custody on Wednesday after a barricade situation resulting from allegations that Arizmendi was trying to pass a fake check near Country Club and University drives, Berry said.
When the forgery did not work Arizmendi fled and then broke into a closed business and would not come out. Eventually a K-9 unit went in and officers were able to arrest Arizmendi, Berry added.
Arizmendi was taken to a hospital and left overnight where he escaped and was located by police on Thursday, according to Berry.
“Once we got that information, of course we began looking for him again, and ultimately caught up to him at a local motel on Main Street here in Mesa,” he said.
Police spotted Arizmendi getting into a vehicle with another man and a woman when officers tried to stop them.
“Which leads up to the point when the video starts,” Berry said. “Where most people see the story beginning, that’s kind of the middle of the story.”
Officers blocked in the vehicle and Berry said the male driver and passenger female immediately surrendered, but Berry said Arizmendi yelled at the driver to ram their way out and tried to take control of the car.
“That didn’t work, (and) ultimately our officers were able to break the window to gain access. They tried tazing him, that was not successful, tried again … not successful,” Berry said. “Ultimately they were able to latch onto him and take him to the ground where you see the confrontation on the ground between him and the officers.”
That is when an officer can be seen in the video striking Arizmendi several times in the head, and another officer striking him repeatedly on his body while they attempted to get Arizmendi’s hands behind his back to restrain him. After punching him in the head several time, the one officer also appears to shove his head into the pavement.
A third officer can then be seen running up to assist the several officers trying to restrain Arizmendi, when it appears he rests his right knee on Arizmendi’s head, pinning it against the pavement.
The end of the video shows Arizmendi with a bloodied face as officers place him in the back of a Mesa Police car.
Berry confirmed the department is aware of the tape and have seen it.
“Certainly we’ve had an opportunity to look at it at this point,” Berry said. “We’ve got to take a lot of things into consideration when you look at that video, (such as) what the officers knew, time, place, location all of those things.”
Berry said when Arizmendi was originally arrested he was in possession of a large knife and pepper spray, and was also make statements about not going back to jail or being taken alive.
He said they also need to look at the information officers discovered after the incident, adding that they believed the male driver was possibly being held hostage by Arizmendi with a loaded flare gun, painted black to look like a real gun.
Berry said the department is pleased that no one was seriously hurt in the incident, with Arizmendi only suffering minor injuries.
He said the department will need to review the tape and examine it carefully.
“On the internal side, with a video like that, will we look at it (and) examine that very indepthly? Absolutely,” he said. “But those are things that will happen in the coming days when we have an opportunity to sit down and reports are actually in, and we can talk to those officers.
“There’s a wide gambit of things, but anytime we have a situation like this, we’re always going to evaluate our tactics and how we do things.”
He said the department welcomes any other video or information on the incident that can offer any insight or perspective on the situation.
Arizmendi is facing a litany of charges such as kidnap, assault with a deadly weapon, forgery, resisting arrest, trespassing, and drug paraphernalia possession.
Berry said that Arizmendi has not made any statements or comments related to officers using any excessive force.