Arizona Cop Under Investigation For Abusing Quadrapalegic Teenager

An inexcusable assault on an utterly defenseless African-American teenager.

An Arizona Sheriff’s deputy is under investigation after a video emerged of him beating and brutalizing a 15-year-old African-American boy who is also a quadruple amputee:

The shirtless 15-year-old screams as he lies facedown on the kitchen floor of his Tucson group home. He has no arms or legs, so he can’t flee or fight back. But a sheriff’s deputy at least twice his size is crouching over him and pinning him to the ground, using his body weight to restrain the quadruple amputee.

The eight-minute cellphone video, which was first published by KOLD, has now prompted an internal affairs investigation at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. A spokesman told The Washington Post on Friday that the deputy in the video, Manuel Van Santen, has been placed on administrative leave.

But Pima County Public Defender Joel Feinman told The Washington Post that the disturbing incident likely wouldn’t have come to light if it weren’t for another teenager at the group home, who recorded the confrontation and then had his head pushed into the wall by deputies.

“These are kids who have already been traumatized in some way,” said Feinman, whose office is representing both boys. If a parent reacted to their teenager acting up in the same way the deputy did, he added, “they might be arrested for child abuse.”

While most information about the teens is being withheld to protect their privacy, Feinman said that Immanuel, the 15-year-old quadruple amputee, is in state custody because he was abandoned by his parents.

On the morning of Sept. 26, an adult who works at the group home called police to report that Immanuel had knocked over a trash can and was yelling and screaming. Feinman isn’t sure what got the teenager riled up, and, in his opinion, it doesn’t matter.

“Fifteen-year-olds who have not been through what Immanuel went through act out all the time,” he pointed out.

The deputy from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department who responded to the call determined that Immanuel was disturbing the peace and decided to restrain him, Feinman said. That’s when C.J., a 16-year-old who also lives at the group home, began surreptitiously recording from an adjoining room.

At the video’s start, a white deputy in wraparound sunglasses can be seen kneeling on the ground and holding the black teenager in a headlock. Immanuel grows increasingly upset, his voice rising to a frantic shriek as he tells the officer not to hold him down.

When the deputy loosens his grip, Immanuel tries to shake him off and break free, but he doesn’t get far. The officer tackles him, wrapping his arms around the teenager and practically lying on top of him as he wrestles him to the floor. An uncomfortable minute passes as the quadruple amputee swears and screams at the deputy, who uses one forearm to hold him pressed to the ground.

Eventually, Immanuel stops protesting and the officer lets him get up, asking him what his problem is, and why he kept moving when he was told not to move. As the 15-year-old insists he doesn’t have a problem, the cop gets louder, bending over so that his face is inches away from the teenager’s.

“I will raise my voice to you whenever the [expletive] I want, you understand?” the officer yells.

C.J., who has been recording the scene as he eats his breakfast in the next room, interrupts. “Hey, you asked him a question, and he answered,” he tells the deputy.

“Shut the hell up!” the cop snaps back. He tells the 16-year-old to go to his room; C.J. responds that he’s eating his cereal and isn’t allowed to be in his room. The deputy storms over, screaming at C.J. and telling him to stay out of something that doesn’t involve him. “You shut the hell up!” he yells again. C.J. tells him to get out of his face.

“You’re going to get arrested, too,” the cop says.

A third teenager takes the phone and begins filming as C.J. is turned around and placed in handcuffs. Without warning, the deputy slams the head of the unsuspecting 16-year-old into the wall. There’s a loud crash, and then the black teen is led to a squad car by the two officers, who appear to be white.

Both C.J. and Immanuel were jailed for disorderly conduct, Feinman said. The deputy hadn’t been wearing a body camera, but when C.J. met with his attorney from the public defender’s office, he suggested watching the video he had captured before his arrest.

Here is the most complete version of the incident I could find:

There really isn’t very much that can or needs to be said by way of commentary here. Regardless of the level of resistance that the cop in question was getting from the teenager involved here, the fact remains that he should have been able to subdue him for arrest without engaging in this kind of behavior. Indeed, the fact that the kid is disabled seems to argue strongly in favor of labeling what the cop did here as nothing short of torture and recognizing the fact that the teenager in question was responding in the manner that he did solely out of a survival instinct.

It’s also not surprising that this is yet another example of a police officer engaging in outrageous behavior toward an African-American male. The fact that this time it was someone who clearly could not fight back just makes the situation far, far worse than it would have been otherwise. To that end, I suppose we can give thanks that the cop didn’t shoot the unnamed teenager or use a TASER that could have caused serious bodily injury. Notwithstanding that, what happened here is nothing short of an inexcusable assault for whih this officer ought to be charged.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Race and Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Both cops better get arrested themselves.

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  2. senyordave says:

    Only comment I have is how the f#@% can something like this happen? I’m not much for public humiliation but this cop should be fired, jailed, and upon release be forced to stand at a busy intersection for a year with a sign saying “I am a sadistic SOB”.
    Oh, and his wages should be garnished for a long, long time.

  3. Teve says:

    He had a gun.

  4. Teve says:

    White Trumpers: “the cop told him to raise his hands, if he just done with the cop said…”

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  5. mattbernius says:

    @senyordave:

    Only comment I have is how the f#@% can something like this happen?

    Frankly, its because we gutted our mental health infrastructure and now rely on police to be the first responders to mental/emotional health emergencies. It’s the worst possible scenario.

    This is to in no way defend the actions taken here — in particular the escalation in response and that final hit (which alone is enough to warrant assault charges). Its simply to say that the vast majority of law enforcement officers are not adequately trained to respond for this sort of scenario and therefore use their incredibly limited toolbox of responses.

    People involved in the criminal justice system tend to be exceedingly conservative (not used here in any political sense) and fall back on base impulses — the function of police/sheriffs is to arrest and therefore when push comes to shove they arrest (and use escalating force to ensure that arrest).

    What’s equally scary is to understand that even if this deputy is fired, if he doesn’t end up with a felony conviction, chances are he’ll just move to a different section of the state or out of state and get hired in another department/agency.

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  6. Mister Bluster says:

    I worked as a personal attendant for my quadriplegic friend Joe off and on for 35 years. It did not take long after I started to do the things for him that he could not do for himself…simple things like he could not put his own pants on…that I began to appreciate the degree of helplessness he lived with every day.
    If ANYONE would have treated him in this manner I would have had to beat their head in with the nearest solid object I could get my hands on. Probably the armrest from his wheelchair.

  7. grumpy realist says:
  8. mattbernius says:

    @mattbernius:
    BTW, if you want to understand why people, in particular those in communities of color or other marginal groups (like LGBTQ), are often unwilling to call the police during domestic incidents, this is exhibit “A”. It goes even double when everyone knows that one of the people involved has any history of mental or emotional issues.

  9. Jen says:

    @mattbernius:

    Its simply to say that the vast majority of law enforcement officers are not adequately trained to respond for this sort of scenario and therefore use their incredibly limited toolbox of responses.

    Law enforcement officers seem to no longer receive any de-escalation training either. This should never, ever, have happened.

    I seem to recall an article about an AA male who was arrested because the cops thought he was drunk. They dumped him in a cell and later found him dead–he’d been acting oddly because his blood sugar was low. He was a diabetic and needed sugar.

  10. Bill says:

    These type videos only scratch the surface.

    Our police are brutal thugs on a power trip. Those who aren’t, protect those who are. That makes them no better.

  11. mattbernius says:

    @Jen:

    Law enforcement officers seem to no longer receive any de-escalation training either.

    They do receive some de-escalation training – typically on a once-a-year basis. What they don’t get is regular practice on it. That typically goes below the already incredibly low amounts of regular practice they get on firearms and hand-to-hand combatives. All of those things are perishable skills that need to be regularly brushed up on.

  12. Kathy says:

    Literally there are no words.

  13. Jen says:

    @mattbernius: Sorry–did not translate well into text, I was saying that with a bit of tongue-in-cheek. I know they technically receive that training but I’m struck by how often it could be deployed and yet isn’t. Like this. Or with teenage girls at swimming parties, etc.

  14. CSK says:

    Unbelievable. Cruel.

  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Boy, those cops are bad ass…taking on an african-american kid like that? That kid is at least 8 feet tall and 400 pounds of raw muscle.
    Wow…that takes big balls. I’m sure regulations call for SWAT back-up in situations like this!!!
    They should get a medal. Trump will probably give the Medal of Freedom, or something like that. Impressive men. Heroes, even.

  16. Kit says:

    I’m guessing that 1/3 to 1/2 of the country would read Doug’s article and come away enraged on the part of the cop.

    I remember in the run up to the war (was it an official war?) with Iraq that we were simply forced to go in, guns ablazing, because the Arabs couldn’t police themselves. Well, where is the outrage on the part of law enforcement? Why cannot they prevent these horrific acts in their own ranks? What will it take for them to be same to police their own?

  17. Paul L. says:

    Deputy Manuel Van Santen* was placed on administrative leave.
    He is part of the FOP so the Pima County Sheriff department will try to excuse his actions.
    Pima County Sheriff Napier will “respect the investigative process” until they can find something to excuse and dismiss the misconduct after the public scrutiny has moved on.
    Pima County Sheriff now hiding behind Blue Wall of Silence.
    Part of a ongoing Investigation.
    We must keep any evidence shielded from the public to preserve the “integrity” of the “investigation”
    Pending Litigation.
    Cannot discuss personnel matters.
    Cannot violate Officer Privacy.
    Story is “one sided political story” and a witch-hunt
    This is “rush to judgment by people who have no first-hand information about what transpired.” We have to wait until all the facts are in.

    *My general rule of thumb is that officers who have shaved heads are dicks.

  18. Teve says:

    @Paul L.: Mike Nifong didn’t have a shaved head.

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  19. An Interested Party says:

    Frankly, its because we gutted our mental health infrastructure and now rely on police to be the first responders to mental/emotional health emergencies. It’s the worst possible scenario.

    Despite the popular belief in certain quarters, tax cuts really don’t pay for themselves…the corresponding budget cuts have to come from somewhere…

  20. DrDaveT says:

    I will believe claims of “a few bad apples” when actual police organizations come out in unison condemnation of this behavior and criminal charges against the officers involved. Until then, all cops are guilty.

  21. Monala says:

    @DrDaveT: it’s very relevant that the full saying is, “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch. “

  22. R.Dave says:

    @mattbernius: Its simply to say that the vast majority of law enforcement officers are not adequately trained to respond for this sort of scenario and therefore use their incredibly limited toolbox of responses.

    I know you didn’t offer that as an excuse, but the fact that every time we see this kind of behavior from a cop it gets linked to a supposed lack of training just irks me to no end. If someone needs to be trained not to tackle a 15-year old quadruple amputee or slam another teenager’s head against the wall because he gets mouthy, that person is an unusually aggressive and abusive asshole and should never have been allowed to become a cop in the first place. Normal people don’t act that way, whether or not they’ve had formal training in conflict de-escalation.

  23. Paul L. says:

    @DrDaveT:
    The 10% of cops that are bad cops make it worst for the 10% of cops that are good cops.
    Pima County Sheriff are locked down behind the blue wall of silence until this blows over.

    “The department will not be commenting until the investigation is over and “a determination about the filing of criminal charges has been made,” in order to respect the investigative process, “

    @Teve:
    Mike, Nifong was a prosecutor not a cop.
    Prosecutors are all dicks.

  24. mattbernius says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I will believe claims of “a few bad apples” when actual police organizations come out in unison condemnation of this behavior and criminal charges against the officers involved. Until then, all cops are guilty.

    Sadly this. We had a case recently where the spokesperson for our local police union couldn’t bring himself to say that a former officer who (1) was internally investigated for roughing up an arrestee and fired and (2) was convicted by a jury on assault charges for said roughing up did anything wrong.

    Likewise I just attended a conference where prosecutors were complaining about having police officers and deputies fired for various offenses being reinstated via mandatory mediation boards despite the fact that their backgrounds means they can never take the stand again.

    The decentralization of our law enforcement and criminal justice systems only exacerbate this issue.

  25. Gustopher says:

    For anyone wondering where I am on the scale of horrible people, I will give two data points.

    1. I find police abusing people with no arms and legs repulsive and want this cop to go to jail.
    2. I’ve been trying to figure out the right name for “what do you call a guy with no arms and legs who gets tackled by the police?”

    So, I figure I’m like a 7.

    What do you call a guy with no arms and legs who is floating in a lake? Bob.
    What do you call a guy with no arms and legs who is in a pile of leaves? Russell.
    Etc.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jen: True story that I’m too lazy to look up again. A Seattle Washington police officer described “de-escalating” a crisis situation by sticking his gun in a subject’s face and threatening to shoot him. The quote was “that de-escalated him just fine” or something on that order.

    The problem was that he was an officer who had been sent to a NYC seminar as the department’s expert on de-escalation.

    When I was in my 20s and Seattle was having some difficulties with use of force issues, one area consultant noted that at that time, police forces took many of their members from working class cohorts and that it was a problem because, again at the time, those cohorts tended to look at violence was a tool for settling problems. (And I must admit to not being a stranger to that philosophy myself.)

    My suspicion is that we haven’t advanced as much from my young adulthood as we might hope.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “…tax cuts really don’t pay for themselves…the corresponding budget cuts have to come from somewhere…”

    Yeah, but as long as they don’t come from somewhere that I’ll notice, why should I GAF about where they come from?

    ETA:

    Prosecutors are all dicks.

    And people are wondering why Kamala Harris isn’t gaining any traction.

  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paul L.:

    The 10% of cops that are bad cops make it worst for the 10% of cops that are good cops.

    Isn’t that supposed to be “the 90% that are good cops?” (I don’t object to your statistics, mind you, I just need to know if I’ve been misunderstanding the quote all these years.)

  29. Paul L. says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    “the 90% that are good cops?”

    Nope, 10% of all cops are good cops.
    The 80% will look the other way and defend the bad cops and call the good cops rats for crossing the thin blue line.

  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paul L.: Well yes, but I was only talking about the adage.