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San Diego Police called on to release body-worn camera video of homeless man's arrest in La Jolla

Posted at 1:49 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 22:22:35-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A local civil rights activist called on the San Diego Police Department Friday to immediately release video footage from the uniform-worn cameras of a pair of officers seen on witness video who tackled and repeatedly punched a homeless man this week on a La Jolla thoroughfare, prompting community outrage.

Shane Harris, president of the People's Association of Justice Advocates, also demanded that dispatch and police-radio records related to the arrest of 34-year-old Jesse Evans -- images of which were captured on video by a bystander and posted on social media -- be made public.

"I saw on video what everybody saw: A Black man being brutalized, being treated like he wasn't a human, being treated unjustly just two days ago," Harris said during a news conference near the site of the scuffle, which resulted in no serious injuries.

The San Diego Police Department has announced an internal investigation into the arrest.

According to SDPD officials, the two officers, whose names have not been released, contacted Evans in the 4100 block of Torrey Pines Road about 9 a.m. Wednesday after seeing him relieving himself outdoors.

RELATED: Witness video shows San Diego Police officers punching homeless man during arrest

Friday morning, Evans denied publicly urinating in the coastal neighborhood near Scripps Institution of Oceanography, though he admitted that he was preparing to when the officers approached.

While saying he forgave the officers for what happened, Evans, who had a bandage over his left eye, and a hospital bracelet on one of his wrists, spoke of a need for better relations between police and the homeless population.

"I hope I'm the last victim of such nonsense," he said. "I hope that we can hire reasonable individuals to look out for us and protect and serve our greater good in a better way, represent us in a better way as a community, as a nation."

For their part, SDPD officials contend that Evans' alleged refusal to cooperate with the patrolmen led to the scuffle.

"(Evans) would not stop to speak with officers; therefore an officer held the man to detain him," the department asserted in a prepared statement released Thursday. "Despite the officers' repeatedly telling the man to stop resisting, (he) would not comply."

The witness cellphone video shows the officers grabbing Evans and wrestling him to the ground. During the ensuing struggle, one of patrolmen can be seen hitting in the face twice with his fist, and the other punches his leg several times.

After being struck, Evans appears to pull a portable radio off one of the officers' belts and hurl it onto the roadway, then appears to hit one of them back, landing a blow to his face. More officers pull up in cruisers and join in the struggle before the video ends.

After the personnel finally got Evans into custody, he was taken to a hospital for an evaluation, then booked into county jail on suspicion of resisting arrest and battery on a police officer.

The in-house departmental investigation began later in the day, police said.

"The (SDPD) Internal Affairs Unit is currently investigating the incident and reviewing (the involved officers') body-worn-camera ... video," according to the agency's statement.

The cellphone images of the fracas prompted a sharp rebuke and call for accountability from the local branch of the NAACP.

"We have been made aware of a disturbing incident ... involving the brutal handling of a member of our community," Francine Maxwell, president of the San Diego branch of the civil rights organization, wrote in a letter to SDPD Chief David Nisleit. "We are deeply saddened and angered to see the San Diego Police Department act with such violence against someone who presented no apparent risk to anyone."

During the news conference he held with Evans, Harris referred repeatedly to the George Floyd case, saying that if the SDPD does not root out the "next Derek Chauvin now, we will be the next Minneapolis, Minnesota, on national TV and international cameras in our city because the mayor, the police chief and this city's regional leaders failed to take action."

Harris vowed to "fight to pluck out the next Derek Chauvin in our region."

"They keep talking about this ideological (issue) of police reform," he said. "But I want to tell them today that if you don't get rid of the next Derek Chauvin, you are not doing any police reform. You are doing the opposite of police reform."

Standing at a podium set up at the corner of La Jolla Scenic and La Jolla Village drives, the local civil rights leader said he was not "here to make assumptions about what happened."

"We thank the San Diego Police Department for responding to our request for information concerning personnel within the department. I am concerned that in the data there are actually still personnel of the SDPD that are still employed by the department that have two or more sustained and unfounded use of force incidents on their records. We need to stop keeping personnel in our departments who are demonstrating a track record of force on citizens and particularly people of color. We as taxpayers demand better employees in our police departments. Police are public servants," he said.