Mesa PD cleared over use of force in punching incident caught on video

Aug 27, 2018, 3:34 PM | Updated: 3:36 pm

PHOENIX — An investigation into a May use-of-force incident that resulted in five Mesa police officers being placed on leave determined that no criminal charges were warranted.

The Scottsdale Police Department, which conducted the investigation, concluded that “the use of force was legally authorized and justified under Arizona State Law,” according to a news release issued Monday.

The results were presented to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which agreed with the findings, the release said.

Video of the May 25 incident showed officers repeatedly punching Robert Johnson.

Johnson, 33, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and hindering prosecution after police had responded to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment complex.

In the video, Johnson could be seen talking on his phone in a corridor while police told him to sit down. Several officers moved in on Johnson and started punching him. It wasn’t clear what instigated the beating.

On June 14, the charges against Johnson were dismissed.

Five officers — Jhonte Jones, Rudy Monarrez, Ernesto Calderon, Robert Gambee and William Abbiatt — were placed on paid administrative leave after the video circulated.

According to Monday’s news release, Scottsdale investigators reviewed more than two hours of body camera footage plus apartment complex surveillance video. They also interviewed 15 people during the investigation.

The case was the first of four incidents in Mesa that came to light within a week through the release of videos, each drawing accusations of police brutality.

Earlier this month, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced that charges were unlikely in another of those incidents based on the results of a Scottsdale Police Department investigation.

That case involved the May 16 arrest of a 15-year-old armed robbery suspect. Two officers were placed on leave over the incident.

The spate of videos prompted Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista in June to launch two investigations into his department’s behavior.

“Simply put, these investigators will shine a glaring light on the areas where we have fallen short, and they will help us fix it,” he said at the time.

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Mesa PD cleared over use of force in punching incident caught on video