The Long Beach Police Department has opened an internal investigation into an incident on Labor Day in which officers were captured on a video posted to YouTube video repeatedly Tasering and striking a man with a baton as he lay in the street, department officials said Tuesday.
Long Beach police said officers were initially summoned by a 911 call reporting pedestrians being assaulted on a street around 6 p.m. Monday outside a liquor store in Long Beach, a city of nearly 500,000 people just south of Los Angeles.
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When police showed up the suspect, later identified as Porfirio Lopez, was fighting with two other men. As officers tried to take him into custody, the man "aggressively resisted," began punching the asphalt with his fists and requested that officers kill him, department officials said.
The video, shot by a bystander and uploaded to YouTube on the day of the incident, shows a shirtless man clad in shorts and work boots lying down in the street, surrounded by four police officers.
One of officers can initially be seen striking the man a half dozen times with a baton, during which the suspect tries to kick officers. Over the course of the 2-minute, 26-second video another officer applies a Taser to the man several times before he is eventually handcuffed.
At one point, bystanders can be heard yelling that the man's teeth were knocked out. But footage does not appear to corroborate that claim and police said that the man had a dental bridge that he took out of his mouth and threw down on the ground during the incident.
Lopez, 46, was arrested on suspicion of battery, battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest and public intoxication. Lopez remains hospitalized for non-life threatening injuries. He was recovering from surgery to his elbow, police said.
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said late Tuesday that the department will conduct "a full and thorough investigation" into circumstances of the case including the use of force by officers.
"In situations like this we look at tactics, training, equipment and policy, every aspect of the use of force," McDonnell said.
Long Beach police spokesman Sgt. Aaron Eaton said although the images of officers applying baton strikes or using the Taser "are disturbing," the department will be examining the entirety of the incident. He stressed it was very early in the investigation.
Eaton noted that officers repeatedly gave directions to the suspect in English and Spanish to submit to arrest by laying on his stomach. But Lopez repeatedly refused and "repeatedly yelled for the officers to kill him."
Department officials also have recovered additional video footage of the incident "that will put the use of force in greater context," Eaton said.
First published September 4 2013, 11:25 AM