Mesa, AZ — The Mesa police department, whose officers are notorious for using excessive and often deadly force against unarmed individuals are in the news this week — facing multiple lawsuits for that very trait. Benjamin Taylor, a civil rights attorney currently has two lawsuits against the department for excessive force including one in which officers opened fire on an unarmed father with his hands up who was surrounded by his five children.
The father, Lorenzo Jones had just handed his youngest child off to the child's mother before police opened fire.
"[Once] they have their hands up, surrendering to law enforcement officers, they're no longer a threat, and that means they shouldn't be shot or killed," Taylor told ABC 15 this week.
To be perfectly clear, Jones is accused of beating a woman and a child and if guilty, deserves to be punished. Police were at the residence that day because on July 6, according to court documents, Jones allegedly punched his fiancée's sister in her face at least three times, causing her to fall. Her children then attempted to stop him from hitting their mother, and Jones reportedly punched and shoved them before leaving the apartment.
If he actually committed the above crimes, he needs to be locked up. However, because the SWAT team opened fire on him with less lethals in front of his children, endangering their lives, he will likely win a taxpayer-funded settlement instead of simply doing his time.
According to police, Jones missed his court date for the above incident, so a warrant was issued for his arrest. The video below is of the SWAT team serving said warrant.
When Mesa SWAT went to serve the warrant on July 16, 2020, Jones, a woman and five children came out. A neighbor filmed the interaction and the subsequent child endangerment that ensued.
As the video shows, Jones tries to tell the officers that he did show up to the court date and couldn't have a warrant for failing to appear. He then complies with everything the SWAT teams says including putting his hands up. Despite 100 percent compliance, police opened fire on him anyway.
"He was no longer a threat around his kids and excessive force should have turned into de-escalation at the time," Taylor said.
As Jones writhed in pain on the ground, the cops kept firing bean bag rounds.
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Police are claiming they opened fire on Jones because they were told he was armed. However, video shows him shirtless, compliant and with his hands in the air when they start shooting.
According to the report, a department spokeswoman said officers were told Jones had a gun and were on "high alert." They claim Jones was not complying and that they deployed non-lethal force to get Jones to comply once the children were out of his immediate vicinity.
However, the video shows that is not true at all and they opened fire on Jones with the baby directly behind him.
"This is unbelievable," Jones' fiancé Tenisha Gaston said. "My 2-year-old son sat there and said 'I don't want to go to jail.' My 2-year-old shouldn't be saying nothing like that."
"Mesa police have a history of harassing the community, of harassing their own citizens," said Taylor. "There was no need for him to be shot in front of his children."
Taylor also represents the family of Angel Benitez, who also had his hands up and was unarmed before police shot him. Unfortunately for Benetiz, however, police used real bullets and killed him. Benitez was killed just two months after police shot Jones.
"His mom cries almost every day the loss of her young son," Taylor said.
As we have reported, the Mesa police have a long and violent history that includes executing innocent unarmed fathers. Just ask the family of Daniel Shaver who was executed by Mesa police officer Philip Brailsford. Shaver was begging for his life, crying, crawling on his belly, then on his hands and knees, and was shot to death by Brailsford when Shaver reached back to pull up his shorts which were falling down as he crawled.
Instead of going to jail for decades for murdering the innocent unarmed father of three, Brailsford was fired, only to be rehired. He then immediately retired from law enforcement winning the equivalent of a lottery jackpot and is still collecting his pension and will do so for the rest of his life.