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FBI to investigate Mesa Police Department use-of-force incidents

PHOENIX — The FBI will investigate two incidents involving the use of force within the Mesa Police Department, police spokesman Esteban Flores said.

Video shows 33-year old Robert Johnson talking on his phone in a corridor as police approach and tell him to sit down against the wall. He did not follow instructions, instead leaning against the wall with his phone in his hand.

The officers began to punch him in the head repeatedly as several moved in to hold Johnson down.

He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and hindering prosecution during the May 23 domestic disturbance call at an apartment complex.

Charges were dropped on June 14.

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

Scottsdale police conducted an independent investigation, and Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista hired an outside attorney to investigate, according to the Associated Press.

It was determined “the use of force was legally authorized and justified” under state law, the Scottsdale police said to AP.

Now, the FBI will be investigating.

“We are glad that the FBI is stepping in to investigate the Robert Johnson case,” said Benjamin Taylor, the attorney for Johnson. “It was hard for Scottsdale to do an independent investigation on their fellow sister city.  We hope that the FBI will help clean up the Mesa Police department and give justice to Robert Johnson.”

In addition, the FBI will be looking into the use of force incident involving Gabriel Mark Ramirez, Jr., who was arrested near Country Club Drive and McLellan Road.

Police did not provide the probable cause or date of Ramirez’ arrest.

The FBI has also investigated the Mesa Police Department for the officer-involved shooting of Scott Farnsworth on Sept. 22, 2017 and Daniel Shaver on Jan. 18, 2016.

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