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The mother of a man seen on video being beaten by Salinas, California, police officers while on the ground Friday is disputing police claims that she was being beaten by her son before the violent arrest.
Video captured by a bystander shows officers repeatedly striking Jose Velasco, 28, as he is on the ground trying to get up during the arrest shortly after 7 p.m.
Police said they were called on reports that a man was beating a woman in the street, and officers saw Velasco "slamming the female's body into the pavement" when they arrived.
"They [police] should have listened to the mom crying for help, that her son needed help, not people saying there’s a man beating a woman. That was not the case," Velasco’s mother, Rita Acosta, told NBC station KSBW on Tuesday.
"He wasn’t trying to hurt me. I was afraid for him, not for my safety. That’s why I called for help," she said. "I thought I was going to get help, not (that) my son would get hurt," she said.
Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin has called the minute-and-a-half video, shot by a bystander and posted to YouTube, as "horrific" and “inflammatory," but said the video doesn't tell the whole story. Velasco was "a violent man assaulting his own mother," McMillin told KSBW.
Police said in a statement that Velasco fought with officers trying to arrest him and grabbed one of their stun guns, and that police tried to use a Taser twice but the stun device had no effect before they struck him with batons. McMillan told the station that Velasco had admitted to smoking methamphetamine earlier in the day.
McMillin said that when an officer is seen in the video running up to a prone Velasco and striking him with a baton, the blows were delivered because the Velasco was still resisting and kicking at officers.
Other baton strikes targeted Velasco’s left arm because he had that arm free and was fighting with officers and grabbing at them as they tried to handcuff him, McMillin said.
"Being on the ground does not necessarily mean no longer violent, doesn’t mean no longer resisting, it doesn’t mean that they’re in custody, it just means that they’re on the ground,” McMillin said Tuesday, "It certainly doesn’t mean they’re no longer dangerous."
Acosta told the station that her son has mental health issues, and was having an episode when she called 911 for help.
Velasco is charged with resisting arrest causing serious injury, assault with a deadly weapon, battery of a police officer, and being under the influence of a controlled substance, according to jail records. He is due in court on Wednesday.