Monday, June 3, 2013

Video shows Mesa cops responding to a trespassing call by beating the crap out of a confused man at Circle K

Proving yet again that there is no interaction that a cop can't escalate into a violent confrontation, a video causing waves today shows a Mesa officer responding to a trespassing call at a Circle K and winding up in an all-out brawl, including tasering, pepper-spraying and punching a man in the process of arresting him.

The victim, identified as Mantagi Tai by the police, had been inside Circle K claiming he was there for his medication.  According the cops, the officer demanded identification from Tai and ordered him to sit down.  When Tai refused the officer pulled out his taser and started making aggressive moves and swearing loudly, telling Tai "to sit the fuck down or you're gonna get tased".

From there, all hell broke loose, and after a very violent struggle the officer, with some help from an off duty cop passing by, a plain clothes office and an elderly security guard, managed to take Tai down hard to the ground, where they then proceed to pummel, knee and tase him violently.  At one point there are three officers, all of whom appear to be white, attacking one man of color, with a white security guard joining in at various points.  The officers knee Tai in the back violently and strike him repeatedly in the face while he is on the hot blacktop.  So far the news has ignored the obvious question of whether the officer would have reacted the way he did if the suspect had been white.

The discussion online and in the media has broken down along the lines of whether this was justified force or not.  People commenting on the raw video on YouTube seem to be mostly taking the side of the officer, but plenty assert that the video shows cops out of control and going too far.  The Mesa PD spokesman, Sgt. Tony Landato, makes sure to point out that the off duty officer who joined the fight (after crashing his truck into a light pole and possibly injuring someone) lost his pistol in the fight, and cites that as a reason for the viciousness of the cops.

But it seems this all misses the real point, which one YouTube user summed up like this:
So? None of that would be material if the cop stepped back, and used his radio, instead of revealing that he fights like a wuss. I'm not billy bad ass, but I did wrestle in high school. Pretty much any high school wrestler would have been on top of that cop.
Exactly.  Whereas ABC15 ended their coverage with some dimwitted anchorman remarking how "it does show how dangerous an officer's job is on a daily basis," in fact what the video shows is how dangerous it is for other people when a police officer shows up.  The officer is the one responsible for this whole situation.  It's his escalation, threats and then violent attack that transformed this from a simple case of removing someone from private property into a potentially life-threatening battle.

What we have here is a cop over-reacting and escalating an encounter when someone merely doesn't comply with an aggressive and rude demand for identification and an order to sit down.  An order that it's entirely possible that Tai doesn't even understand.  After all, extrapolating from his reference to medication and confused behavior, he may well be mentally ill.

Surely there was another solution to this problem.  But Mesa PD, as with police in the Valley generally, continue to demonstrate their aggressive and adversarial nature, as well as their dedication to violence and bullying as their preferred method of problem-solving, especially when dealing with people of color.

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