The videotaped arrest of an Alabama man whose leg was repeatedly stomped by an officer is indicative of a police department that does not know how to safely interact with the mentally ill, the man’s lawyer said Wednesday.
Attorney Martin Weinberg represents 22-year-old Kemontae Hobbs, the Black man whose forceful arrest on Sunday at the hands of Huntsville police inside a convenience store was captured by a bystander and posted on Facebook Live. Hobbs is disabled because he suffers from schizophrenia, Weinberg said Wednesday.
The 90-second video shows an officer struggling on the ground with Hobbs. It is unclear what happened prior to the video being recorded.
Two other officers then arrive to assist with the arrest. One of those officers then stomps on Hobbs' right leg five times while yelling, “Stop. Stop resisting. Stop resisting. Stop resisting. Stop.”
Weinberg said his client’s case can be summed up by knowns and unknowns.
“We know there is a problem in Huntsville with excessive force and dealing with mentally ill individuals,” said Weinberg, who represents the families of other mentally ill clients suing Huntsville police after their loved ones died during interactions with officers.
He added: “We don’t know enough at this point. We don't know if they tried to de-escalate. ... We don’t know the exact name of the officers (involved). We don’t know their history, in terms of complaints they had. … We don’t have a lot of faith they’re going to discipline this officer. We’re waiting to see. We’re asking they deal with that swiftly and fairly.”
Huntsville police did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment on Wednesday. In a statement released Tuesday, department officials said Hobbs’ arrest is under review. Hobbs was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing government operations. Officers were initially called to the convenience store by an employee, police said.
“After an officer arrived on scene and made contact with the suspect, the individual was non-compliant. The officer called for backup. An altercation with police subsequently occurred” the statement said.
“We have reviewed citizen-provided video that partially captures the arrest process. We understand concerns with use of force techniques used in the arrest and we take these concerns seriously. The full incident is under review including all actions taken by officers during the arrest process.”
Hobbs’ mother, Kimberlyn Hayes, said a person in the store called police after her son asked someone for a dollar.
“How was he resisting when when he was already on the ground and you are stomping on him like a dog? That’s not how you handle things,” Hayes said.
Huntsville City Councilman Devyn Keith told NBC-affiliate WAFF the the video "in my opinion shows positive and negative performances by our officers."
"A controlled response by a number of our officers. That successfully leads to supporting a fellow officer in detaining a suspect,” Keith said. “Then ... actions that don’t seem to aide in the detention but rather inflict harm and potentially escalate it in my opinion. I’ve sent it to the department for immediate review and will follow up personally with HPD leadership.”
Huntsville is still roiling from last month’s murder conviction of officer William Darby. Darby killed Jeffery Parker in a 2018 shooting. Weinberg represents Parker’s family in a federal wrongful death lawsuit and said Huntsville’s mayor and police chief have publicly defended Darby. Despite the murder conviction, Darby is on leave and stripped of authority but still on the force. He will face a disciplinary hearing that could lead to his termination, AL.com reports.
Weinberg said Hobbs has been medically evaluated and while he’s bruised, he did not break any bones. He said Hobbs didn’t have a weapon, and in the context of what was seen on video, it appears to show excessive force. Weinberg said he would like to see an outside agency investigate, “whether it’s the state or the feds,” noting his client will suffer while coping with the aftermath of the arrest.
“He’s going to have physical and mental issues from this. He is in pretty bad shape and overwhelmed right now,” Weinberg said.