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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SFPD Apparently Used 14 Officers to Detain a One-Legged Man for Using Crutches — Updated

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2015 at 10:12 AM

SFPD apparently employed fourteen police officers to detain a disabled homeless man on Market Street earlier this month, reportedly for being "armed" with crutches he used to walk. 

Writer Chaédria LaBouvier published an account and video of the incident at Medium yesterday, entitled, "I Watched 14 Police Officers Take Down a One-Legged Homeless Black Man Outside Twitter HQ." 

According to LaBouvier, the incident occurred around midday on August 4, on Market Street between 7th and 8th Streets. When she arrived on the scene and began recording, the man had been forced to the ground and handcuffed. According to bystanders, the police had been called due to "somebody waving sticks around." 

She writes (Joe Bland is a pseudonym for the disabled man): 
From my vantage point on the shore of 8th street, I could see the man reluctantly hand over his crutches. The man, it turned out, only had one leg; the other was a prosthetic. It is often twisted and backwards in the video. And this was the crux of the heightened tension between the police and Joe Bland; they wanted his crutches and he did not want to give them away. “What are you doing this for?” he asked so many times. “These are my crutches. I use these to walk.” He repeats this throughout the footage. An officer can be seen at the 5 second time-mark stomping on the man’s prosthetic leg. In further efforts to subdue a man already on the ground with four people on top of him, they stood on his leg, held it, and twisted it around even after they had cuffed him and pinned him to the piss-stained concrete.

Even when restrained and clearly unable to walk, several officers continued to hold him down to the ground.
In the video (below), the man can be heard to complain that the officers are hurting him and explain that the sticks are his crutches. Throughout much of the incident, the man's pants are pulled down and his body exposed. Eventually an ambulance arrives and he is taken away on a stretcher. 

SFPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment. We will update if we learn more about the incident. 

UPDATE: SFPD Tenderloin Station Captain Teresa Ewins has released two statements regarding the incident. In the first statement, emailed out yesterday, she says that SFPD responded to a 911 call complaining about "an individual that is mentally unstable waving a stick in UN Plaza." When police officers arrived, Ewins says the man "rais[ed] the sticks above his head in a threatening manner."  
The subject stepped into oncoming traffic on Market St. Officer’s continued to attempt to verbally instruct him to not step into oncoming traffic. The subject continued to refuse their directions and stated to the officers, “I don’t care if I get hit by a car.”

Per Department policy officers called for an Extended Range Impact Weapon (ERIW) which is a less lethal use of force due to the circumstances. The ERIW shoots a bean bag round.

Upon the arrival of the ERIW, the subject placed the sticks onto the ground. Due to his state of mind at the time, officer’s believed he was in an Altered Mental State and fit the criteria for a Mental Health Detention. They determined he was a danger to himself and others.

As officer’s attempted to place the subject into handcuffs he pulled his arms away. As he was resisting officer’s the subject fell forward. The officers still having their hands on him allowed his body weight to take him to the ground while attempting to control him.

The video shows that the officers used their body weight to subdue the subject by attempting to hold him still. The subject attempted to bite one officer on his leg and then with his legs strike another with both his legs.

Officers called for an ambulance due to his Altered Mental State. The subject then was taken to the hospital due to his Mental Health Detention.

We are attempting to gather further video in the area that shows the entire contact with this individual and the officers. I will look at this matter thoroughly and determine if there are any violations of Department policies and procedures and forward to OCC for an independent review.
In a second statement, emailed today, Ewins attempts to clarify "some miss information in social media" [sic]:

There were not 14 officers handling or taking the subject to the ground as seen in the video. There were 5 officers initially at the scene attempting to place him into custody. As presented in the video after the officer’s had him on the ground. Officer’s then responded to assist with the crowd that was gathering and being very aggressive toward the officers.

In regards to the crutches being mentioned both in the video and the emails I have received. The subject on the ground clearly states he had sticks and then mentions going to get crutches. The sticks were recovered and booked into evidence in which I personally saw prior to them being booked at Tenderloin Station.

I hope this clears up any misinformation that is being disseminated. As I stated yesterday I am looking into this matter myself as well as forwarding it to the Office of Citizen Complaints for investigation. The OCC is an independent organization tasked with investigating police misconduct.

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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