A viral video posted online around mid-January of an alleged incident of police brutality which occurred in Carson, CA has been drawing outrage on social media. But what is the full story behind the video?
The original video which drew such a shocked and indignant response from viewers was actually posted to YouTube and Live Leak about five months ago. While some versions of the story claim that the incident just recently happened, the arrest of the man in the video, Porfirio Santos-Lopez, actually occurred in early September of last year. In addition, it didn’t happen in Carson, CA. It actually occurred in nearby Long Beach. However, the story seems to be finding new life lately on social media outlets due to the seeming brutality of the beating and the fact that many falsely believe the incident just took place.
In the viral video, a group of police officers surround a man who is lying on his back in the middle of the street, with one officer repeatedly striking the man with a baton as well as tasing him what appears to be multiple times. The bystanders, who seem to be the ones filming the beating, can be heard exclaiming in the background. At one point, one of the onlookers comments that the police have knocked the man’s teeth out. It was later proven, however, that the man had a dental bridge which had fallen to the ground. Throughout the video, it does not appear that the man is fighting back and seems to be screaming in pain.
According to police, however, there was more to the incident than what is seen in the video. They claim that 46-year-old Santos-Lopez had punched a man in the head during an argument outside a liquor store, and when they responded to a 911 call about the incident they found Santos-Lopez to be combative. According to Sgt. Aaron Eaton of the Long Beach Police Department, the man was acting irrationally and at one point punched the pavement. When the officer attempted to speak with Santos-Lopez, according to Eaton, he began yelling and asked the officer to shoot him.
Adding further context to the incident, Eaton said empty beer cans were found near the scene of the arrest. In addition, Santos-Lopez is said to have told the officers that he had used the drug methamphetamine prior to the fight.
According to a witness, Maria Ruiz, who was working nearby at a beauty salon, “It looked like they were trying to arrest him but he didn’t want them to. He tried to kick and punch one of the officers and that’s when they took him down.”
Surveillance footage reportedly confirms this series of events and further shows him dropping to the ground after appearing to be tasered, followed by two police officers hitting him at least six times with their batons.
The viral video of the alleged police brutality begins at this point in the altercation, showing another round of beating and tasering which took place prior to Santos-Lopez’s arrest during which the officers were attempting to get him to roll over so they could handcuff him.
While much of the dialogue that occurred between the man and the police officers is unclear, at one point the officers tell the man to roll over on his stomach, to which he responds by asking “Why?”
According to Eaton, the batons and Taser are “tools for us to use and get a combative subject into custody” and they were being used because he refused to comply with their orders to roll over. “It wasn’t that he couldn’t understand,” Eaton added. “He refused to go on his stomach.”
Santos-Lopez was eventually arrested on suspicion of battery, battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest and public intoxication. He was taken to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center for treatment of “non-life threatening injuries.”
According to the police, Santos-Lopez’s arms, legs and maybe his torso were struck by the baton blows during the arrest. Officers are specifically trained to avoid the head, neck, throat, kidneys and groin. Greg Meyer, a former LAPD captain and use-of-force expert who commented on the case at the time, said that the use of the baton and taser that occurred in the incident did in fact follow proper protocol. However, Santos-Lopez’s attorney, Brian Dunn, seemed to indicate that the officers may not have completely followed protocol. Among the injuries sustained by Santos-Lopez in the incident, according to his attorney, were a broken arm and leg as well as a large gash above his hairline “consistent with a baton strike.” While some news reports have claimed that Santos-Lopez also had a collapsed lung, this claim has not been present in all reports. The claim of a collapsed lung reportedly came from Santos-Lopez’s wife, Lee Ann Hernandez.
Further adding to the controversy surrounding the beating is the fact that it appears the man was suffering from mental illness for which he had not been able to get adequate help, despite repeated requests for assistance.
All news coverage of the incident seems to have ended within a few weeks following the arrest so the Guardian Liberty Voice reached out to Santos-Lopez’s attorney, a member of The Cochran Firm in Los Angeles who specializes in civil rights litigation with an emphasis on police misconduct, to determine what happened with Santos-Lopez case. Thus far, no one representing Santos-Lopez has been in touch with our staff. It is also unclear what the results were of any internal investigation which occurred within the Long Beach Police Department. However, it was reported by one source soon after the incident that none of the officers were placed on leave.
By Nancy Schimelpfening