Community members are calling for transparency in an investigation into the Redding Police Department’s “alarming” use of force against a man arrested in late January, resulting in the suspension and discharge of one officer.
A video posted to social media on Jan. 28 shows eight Redding police officers and police dog Duke fighting with a man as he rolls to the ground. During the video, one of the officers appears to step on the man’s head twice.
After the video went viral, Police Chief Bill Schueller released a statement saying he asked the Anderson Police Department to conduct a criminal investigation into the officer’s conduct. Schueller said the officer was “stamping hard on the suspect’s head.”
The video of the crash sparked a strong community backlash, with calls for more transparency into what happened during the crash and the police investigation.
“It is alarming and unnecessary. They had a dog there. They had officers there and it was reactionary. It was absolutely not within the policy to do that,” Eddie McAllister, co-chair of the Shasta Equal Justice Coalition, said of the alleged stomping.
In response to the incident, a rally called the Police Cameras Celebration of Change was scheduled at the Redding Town Hall last Thursday at 6pm.
“Because of recent examples of police violence once again across our country and in our own backyard, we are peacefully coming together to demand that police across the United States of America, as well as those here at home, be required by law to wear and use body cameras for everyone’s protection,” according to an event announcement posted on Facebook.
The Redding Police Department began a pilot this week using eight body-worn cameras, an official said.
The incident that sparked the demonstration began on 23 January, when police were called to report a man attempting to drive into parked cars at a nursing home on Willis Street in central Redding.
When the first officer arrived, he found a man matching the suspect’s description standing in the street, according to a police report written by Officer Trevor Rodgers and filed in Shasta County Superior Court.
The officer said the man was wearing a hoodie and had his hands in his pockets, the report said. The officer asked the man, later identified as Kevin Hursey, 39, to remove his hands from his pockets, the report said. Instead, the man, who was about 50 feet away, walked “aggressively” toward the officer, the report said.
Hursey was told to put his hands behind his head and turn away from the officer, but the man did not obey the officer, according to the report.
The officer said he was concerned Hursey had a weapon in his pocket. During the confrontation, the officer aimed a stun gun at the man, the report said.
“I ordered him several times to take his hands out of his pocket and he kept taking them out and putting them back in his pocket. He continued to refuse to follow my commands,” Rodgers wrote. He noted in the report that he suspected Hursey of being under the influence of methamphetamines.
“I ordered (Hursey) several times to kneel down and put my hands behind my head. (Hursey) knelt where he put his right hand into his belt. This action looked like he was reaching for a weapon of some sort,” the report said.
At one point during the incident other officers showed up on the scene. The report said Officer Xavier Yabra shot Hursey with an ottoman from a rifle after the suspect reached into his pocket again, the report said. During the fight to detain Hursey, he kicked an officer several times and attacked the police dog with his hands, the report said.
“Officer (Tim) Jaegel deployed the K9 Duke on (Hursey), other officers and I grabbed onto his legs and arms to restrain subject as the K9 Duke was attached to (Hursey’s) arm,” says the report.
Rodgers’ report does not mention how many officers were involved in subduing Hursey, nor does it mention the suspicion that he was kicked in the head twice by one of the officers. Schueller declined to name the officer who was suspended or any other officers involved in the arrest.
The video shows five or six officers swarming over Hursey and the K9 dispatched to help subdue him. The video shows two other officers carrying shotguns or rifles and circling the group of officers grappling with Hursey.
In a statement released early Sunday, Schueller said, “Some of the force used is disturbing and could violate the standards of training and conduct required of members of the Redding Police Department.”
But he also defended the number of officers involved in the arrest.
Other officers were called to the scene because Hursey had been arrested at least three times in January, was known to be violent and was possibly on drugs, which could make it more difficult to police him, Schueller said.
“And frankly, that tactic that they’re using where there are multiple agents trying to control a person who is under the influence and has superior strength and lacks pain compliance, or is unresponsive to pain, that tactic is safe. it’s safer than trying to do it with just a couple of agents,” he said.
He said police dogs are also typically used when a suspect may be armed and disrespectful to officers.
Ted Couch, also co-chair of the Shasta Equal Justice Coalition, said the incident appeared to be “worrying to say the least”. He said the police department needs to be transparent about investigating what happened during Hursey’s arrest.
Redding’s incident came just weeks after recent events in Memphis, Tennessee where a man was beaten to death by police. Couch said the Redding police failed to meet the standard of transparency set by the Memphis Police Department, which blamed five of its officers in Tire Nichols’ death.
Couch said that most of what is known about what happened during Hursey’s arrest was told from the perspective of the police department, but the public needs to hear all sides of the story.
“I would say that we would like to see that there is a very clear, open, honest and transparent investigation and the results of that presented. And allowing the audience to be part of it, to understand it and make sure there are no unanswered questions: nothing is hidden, nothing is presented as a one-sided story,” Couch said.
“We want the community to trust our law enforcement, we want law enforcement to trust our community. And so we think that openness and transparency is really what’s key here to help develop that trust,” Couch said.
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Report sheds light on ‘alarming’ use of force by Redding police