The above is one of six videos released today by the City of Pasadena in connection with a November 9, 2017 “use of force” incident in which the suspect’s leg was broken.
The City of Pasadena released six videos on Friday taken by cameras on the police car and by the body-worn cameras of two unnamed Pasadena police officers involved in the forceful arrest of an Altadena man whose leg was broken and his forehead bloodied during a controversial November 9th encounter.
This is the first time that police body-worn camera video has been made public in response to a police use-of-force incident in Pasadena.
In a statement last Monday, City Manager Steve Mermell said “while the City is not obligated or required to release such the recordings … I believe doing so is in the best interest of the City and that of the public.”
The officers’ actions during the arrest are currently under review by the police department.
“The City and its police department take very seriously any allegations of inappropriate conduct by our sworn officers,” Pasadena spokesperson William Boyer said last week.
The man arrested that night, Christopher Ballew, 21, of Altadena, has retained Pasadena attorney John Burton, known nationally for representing victims of police misconduct.
Burton is critical of the officers’ conduct.
“Why they’re even putting their hands on him and pushing him up against the car without any explanation … is the epitome of thuggish, bad police work,” Burton said Friday night. “When you violate basic rules of police procedure, bad things happen… That’s what happened here.”
The incident was largely unknown until a video taken by an unidentified passerby was posted onto Facebook and then published by Pasadena Now on December 4. That short clip opens with Ballew initially hanging onto a police baton and then being pushed to the ground, punched, and struck with the baton as he resists the arrest.
Ballew told Pasadena Now last week that his leg was broken when one of the officers hit him with the baton as he lay on the pavement. He apparently received a wound to his forehead when his face was pushed downward by one of the officers.
Pasadena spokesperson Boyer confirmed to the Pasadena Star-News that Ballew suffered a fractured fibula during the incident.
The social media video of the arrest sparked controversy over the police officers’ use of force, drawing immediate outcry from civil rights activists, police reform advocates, and members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Pasadena branch, which issued a statement calling the officers’ actions “reprehensible” and “inhumane.”
“We are concerned that such treatment continues against people of color, especially black males,” said NAACP Pasadena Branch President Delano Yarbrough.
The negative public reaction, including a statement read at the December 4 City Council meeting by NAACP representatives which included a request that the officers’ body-worn camera video be released for public viewing, may have been factors in Mermell’s decision to publicly release the police video.
The videos show the incident from both police officers’ points of view. The footage captures the incident unfolding as the officers execute a U-turn on Fair Oaks inside Altadena and head south after the white Mercedes driven by Ballew, which turns into the Mobile gas station.
The officers follow Ballew, pull up behind him and one approaches him as heads towards the station’s cashier.
That officer guides Ballew back to the car where scuffling begins almost immediately.
As one officer tells Ballew to “better stop acting like a dummy, dude” the two officers begin to struggle to handcuff Ballew, who ends up on the pavement up against the passenger side of the Mercedes.
The officers order Ballew to give them his hands. It does not appear that he complies.
Ballew repeatedly asks “Where is your commanding officer?” and manages to pull away from the officers with dangling handcuffs clamped around one wrist.
One officer begins to strike Ballew with his baton. Ballew grabs the baton and pulls it away from the officer.
That officer draws his service weapon and aims it towards Ballew. His partner is apparently in the line of fire. The officer holsters his weapon and retrieves the baton, now lying on the pavement.
The officer delivers three “compliance strikes” to Ballew with the baton, one to his back and two in the area of his ankles, as his partner punches Ballew, knocks Ballew to the ground and pushes Ballew’s head onto the pavement.
The two officers then struggle to completely handcuff Ballew, who is lying on the pavement beneath them. Ballew appears to continue to resist until the handcuffs are secured.
Police originally said on November 10, during the morning after the arrest, that Ballew was taken into custody at the Mobile gas station on the corner Fair Oaks Avenue and Woodbury Road when the officers reportedly observed Ballew commit “multiple traffic violations” and followed him into the station.
According to a police spokesman, Ballew refused to comply with their orders and during a scuffle with police, he “was able to get the baton of one of the officers. A fight ensued, and he ran. They were able to get him into custody and he was arrested.”
Ballew was taken to a hospital for treatment of his broken leg then transferred to the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles on $50,000 bail, the spokesman said, noting Ballew had been arrested on suspicion of assault on a peace officer as well as several unspecified misdemeanors.
On December 8, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced it had declined to prosecute Ballew on any charges arising from the incident.
City Manager Mermell said “immediately following the incident, the Police Department initiated a use of force review, in accordance with departmental policy and procedure. That review is ongoing. The outcome of which will also be in accordance with department policy.”
Mermell noted that he and Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez ”hope to meet soon with leadership of the NAACP to discuss the incident and the concerns and questions they raised last week.”
“I look forward to the dialogue,” Mermell said.