Mesa, AZ — A major protest against police brutality will occur Thursday evening to be held outside police headquarters in Mesa after cell phone footage surfaced showing Mesa Police giving a man a beat down for allegedly crossing the street the wrong way — jaywalking. The cell phone footage shows Jason Michael Barton getting manhandled by two Mesa police officers.
Predictably, Mesa police are blaming the victim for the officers’ use of force, but community leaders like Reverend Jarrett Maupin aren’t buying it. And they say the community is outraged.
It all started June 19, when two Mesa police officers claim they witnessed Barton crossing the street while the hand was solid red, indicating it is not safe to cross. The two-man team of officers then did a u-turn to confront Barton. That’s when they say Barton attempted to run away.
At a press conference, Mesa PD Spokesperson Det. Steve Berry told reporters body camera footage shows Barton was directed to speak with officers but chose to run instead. Barton told reporters he’d turned around to attempt to activate the video recording function on his cell phone.
Berry continued saying Barton struggled with the two officers and was resisting arrest, all the while reaching for something in his pockets. He also said Barton removed a baggie of marijuana and rubbed it into the concrete attempting to destroy it.
Cell phone footage shot by onlooker Jonathan Jimenez only shows a screaming young man who was being punched, kneed in the head, and beaten by two police officers who were screaming for him to “stop resisting.”
Late on Wednesday Mesa police released body camera footage from the incident, which appears to show Barton attempting to flee. Later, at the precinct, he told police the reason he ran was that he was in possession of cannabis. Most of what happens in the body camera footage is entirely blurred out and getting a real grasp of what happened is difficult.
But it will be up to Barton’s defense attorney to attempt to demonstrate the stop was, from the onset, unjustified, and police had no right to arrest a man who was simply walking down the sidewalk.
The reason police say they stopped him was for jaywalking, but instead of getting a citation for the alleged criminal activity (a misdemeanor), Barton got a beating instead.
He says his beating is the latest in a long history of harassment by Mesa PD and that police are historically crafty in the way they trump up charges against him.
As an example, he says one officer was holding his hand on one side, while the other officer was pulling on the same arm on the other, preventing him from offering his hands so they could be cuffed. As TFTP recently reported, officers will yell “stop resisting,” which fools onlookers into feeling sympathy for police, then they struggle with the suspect, escalating the use of force and thereby incriminating an otherwise compliant suspect.
While Barton was careful in his word choice with reporters, Rev. Maupin didn’t hold back. One could say he had some very strong words for Mesa PD.
Maupin issued a statement which reads in part;
During the nighttime encounter, which police claim was sparked by Barton illegally crossing a street, officers can be seen repeatedly and viciously punching, kicking, and beating Barton after throwing him to the ground…Barton was unarmed and posed no threat to the officers, himself, or the public
Outside Mesa PD headquarters, Maupin joined Barton and his mother for a press conference with reporters. Tina Barton told reporters police have been harassing her son for years.
I’d like to thank God that my son, Jason, is alive…My son has endured police brutality since the age of 14…When is the violence going to stop?
Barton explained what life is like for the young Black man. He said:
This is not the first time, this is not the second time, not the third time, not the fourth time, it’s not the fifth time — we can count into the 20s that I’ve been in handcuffs just for the most tedious of things…Being stereotyped, being brutalized that way I’ve been over the yearS
He said he knew when he first laid eyes on the officers, they were going to get violent with him.
I can tell when there’s eyes that’s ready to attack and they’re in attack mode. It’s predetermined — already.
When asked by reporters if he was sure he was not jaywalking, he said he noticed the time on the crosswalk signal read “12” seconds left before it goes all red. He also said he was already about 90 seconds down the street when they approached him. He said he never saw the police cruiser and believes police are lying about his alleged jaywalking.
“They [the officers] got out the car ready to whip some ass,” Barton said and admitted he was somewhat afraid to speak with reporters. “Right now, I’m surprised I’m not getting arrested for talking,” he said in all seriousness.
Maupin appeared even more upset than Barton. He equated the beating to a “Rodney King.” He said:
The punishment for jaywalking is not a Jim Crow butt-kicking on the street…There’s no explanation for [the officers’] behavior. … There’s no narrative that’s gonna fly here that the cell phone was a gun or a knife…We will be protesting to demand that these officers be immediately fired…Their actions fly in the face of department training and, without question, violate policies and procedures for interacting with law abiding and peaceful citizens.
Maupin is promising “civil disobedience” in Thursday’s planned protest for 7 pm Arizona time outside Mesa PD headquarters.
There will be no peace in Mesa until there is justice…Until there is acknowledgement [sic] of, accountability for, and immediate action taken to address the factual institutional and systemic racism within the ranks of the Mesa police department [sic] this city will be unsafe and unstable.
Barton was not given medical attention for the strikes and blows to his head. Instead, he was taken to police headquarters and charged with evading police, resisting arrest, and possession of marijuana, all because police say he was jaywalking and attempted to flee.
Medical marijuana is legal in the state of Arizona, but securing a medical marijuana card is costly. Ironically, while it is perfectly legal in one form, without holding a MMJ card, possession of marijuana in Arizona is a felony, unlike other states where it is considered a misdemeanor.
Maupin told reporters he believes there are many more serious crimes occurring in Mesa which deserve police attention more than a suspected jaywalker. He claims there’s systemic institutional racism at work in the police department and says Barton fit the profile of a scary Black person whose mugshot would look good on the PD’s website.
Jimenez, who shot the footage concluded, “I knew something was wrong…I’ve never heard a man scream like that before.””He was just walking and for them to do something like that there’s no word’s to explain it, it’s just bad,” he said.
Use of force guidelines state if a suspect is attempting to flee, then officers are permitted to use soft and hard hand techniques to subdue the suspect. But even Jimenez stated what he saw was Barton trying to protect himself and that no one, who is getting beaten and kicked in the head will naturally roll over and place their hands behind their backs..