SAN BERNARDINO – A San Bernardino barber shop owner who was the subject of a videotaped beating by police was held nearly two days without being booked into jail or charged, and denied a phone call, an attorney for his family said Wednesday.
CBS-KCAL video: Caught on tape: Officer Beats Suspect With Baton
It was only after the Mayor‘s office intervened on the family’s behalf Wednesday afternoon that Darren Johnson, 43, was allowed to call his wife and tell her what had happened.
Johnson reportedly told his wife in a call from Loma Linda University Medical Center that he suffered a compound fracture to his hand, and has stitches to both legs and his head, among other injuries.
An iPhone video of his arrest taken by an eyewitness shows an officer repeatedly striking him with a baton while another officer holds him on the ground in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven at the corner of Highland and Mountain View avenues.
“His wife has been trying for two days to find out where he is,” said Gary Wenkle Smith, the San Bernardino attorney representing Johnson’s wife, Landra Santana. “The family has been in a state of shock because they know he was hurt but they didn’t know the severity of his injuries.”
The video was initially posted on YouTube but removed after the cameraman’s employer asked him to take it down so it could be sold to television news agencies.
The San Bernardino Police Department have refused to discuss whether the beating was appropriate or why the man had not been booked or charged as of early Wednesday evening.
“It’s under investigation so we will go from there once the investigation is completed,” said San Bernardino police spokesman, Lt. Dan Keil.
As a result, it remains a mystery why Johnson was never booked into custody after being arrested about 10:30 p.m. Monday.
Before his arrest, Johnson, who his wife described as a U.S. Army veteran, took off on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to get a drink at the convenience store and never returned.
Department officials said Johnson was initially stopped for running a stop sign and a traffic signal.
“After being contacted, he became increasingly agitated and aggressive and struck one of the officers,” Kiel said on Tuesday, after the video of the confrontation surfaced.
Police also said Johnson was in possession of cocaine.
Brandon Piddington, 38, who shot the video, said he saw officers talking with Johnson in the store lot as he entered the store, then saw the beating in progress as he walked out, so he started filming.
Piddington’s video shows an African-American officer delivering blow after blow, while a white officer wrestles to hold down Johnson, who is black.
A search of county records found that Johnson has no criminal record other than an 18 month-old arrest in a domestic dispute – a charge that was later dismissed.
Early Wednesday afternoon, Keil, the San Bernardino police spokesman, said that Johnson had been booked at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. He later said he had been mistaken after sheriff’s officials insisted he was not there.
San Bernardino police Chief Keith Kilmer is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
Santana, Johnson’s wife, said the police version doesn’t add up. She said her husband, who owns The Shop barbershop in San Bernardino and served four years in the Army, didn’t use or deal drugs.
“There is no reason he would strike a cop,” she said.
And she questions why police failed to properly book him in jail so he could be charged and bailed out.
On its face, Johnson’s case bears eerie similarities to two other cases in which suspects were allegedly hidden by San Bernardino police officers without being properly booked or charged, said Smith, the family’s lawyer.
Earlier this year, Chief Kilmer hired an outside private investigator to probe long-standing claims that several officers have been illegally keeping suspects “on ice.”
At least one “on ice” case is still winding its way through the court system. Former narcotics Sgt. Brad Lawrence was put on paid administrative leave for seven months last year during an Internal Affairs investigation before returning to work in March as a patrol sergeant.
“This stinks…,” Smith said. “It appears as though a man who has been mistreated by local law enforcement has been put “on ice” and that only because of the intervention of the Office of the Mayor did we have any chance to communicate.”
Filed under: Civil Liberties, Drugs, Prison Industrial Complex | Tagged: Brandon Piddington, Dan Keil, Darren Johnson, Gary Wenkle Smith, Keith Kilmer, Landra Santana, Loma Linda University Medical Center, Pat Morris, San Bernardino Police Department |