Enhanced video of San Jose Police arrest shows university student was crying, asking for his glasses — not resisting officers

San Jose Police shoulder patchThe San Jose Mercury News, which broke the story several weeks ago of a video that shows San Jose police may have used unnecessary force when officers arrested a San Jose State University student, is now under a darkening cloud of questions about the batons and Taser used to subdue Phuong Ho.

The Mercury News today published a follow-up article with an enhanced version of the cell-phone video that had been shot by a roommate with clearer sound, which shows Ho compliant, crying and repeatedly asking for his glasses, which had been knocked off by an officer.

The Mercury News article says:

All four officers on the scene were placed on administrative leave last month on the day the grainy video, provided to the Mercury News by Ho’s lawyer, first was posted on the newspaper’s Web site. The department has completed an investigation into the incident and turned over its results to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which is deciding whether to file criminal charges against the officers.

Charges that the office brought against Ho in September, for brandishing a weapon at another roommate and resisting arrest, are pending.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Mayor Chuck Reed called on a City Council committee to step up outside review of the department’s use of force.

The mayor’s recommendation comes after continuing controversy over the issue. The Mercury News reported Nov. 1 that a study of more than 200 criminal prosecutions of resisting arrest last year showed that the police use of force in such instances often developed from minor infractions, including jaywalking and missing bike head lamps. Most of those cases involve people of color, the newspaper review found.

I’ll let the legal system and City Council review run its course, but I agree with the Mercury News’ editorials, which called for, and now applaud the review of the cops’ use of force.

Just listening to the audio and reading the transcripts gave me a queasy feeling in my gut, not just because Ho is Asian, but also because for most of my life, I was virtually blind without my glasses, and I know the feeling of desperation and panic that I can hear clearly in Ho’s voice when he keeps asking for his glasses.

You can read the full transcript of the enhanced video. Here’s an excerpt: Continue reading

San Jose police deny excessive force in arrest of student

The San Jose Mercury News has been driving the coverage of the ongoing controversy over the way San Jose police officers arrested Phuong Ho, a 20-year-old San Jose State math major who allegedly threatened his roommate with a steak knife. Another roommate shot cell phone video footage that appears to show Ho crying out as he’s Tasered and beaten by one officer using a baton while another stands by with a relaxed stance. Ho was treated at a hospital for Taser burns and cuts, including to his head.

The Merc (full disclosure: I work for MediaNews Group, the parent company of the San Jose Mercury News) published the video on its website over the weekend, and the footage has sparked a protest within San Jose’s large Vietnamese community and within the Asian American blogosphere, claiming the police officers abused their power.

Attorneys for the officer deny that excessive force was used, and said in an article today on the Merc’s website, “Mr. Ho is responsible for his conduct, and he is responsible for not taking lawful directives from a police officer. He is being combative and non-compliant, and he raises the stakes of the game.”

The Mercury News obtained a copy of the videotape last week from Ho’s attorney, and showed it to six experts, four of whom expressed alarm at the force used by the officers as Ho can be heard on the ground, crying and moaning. Several of the experts expressed alarm at the last baton strike, appearing to occur after Ho has been handcuffed — which is how Ho recounts the incident.

But attorneys (Terry) Bowman and Craig Brown … both said Monday that Ho was struck only after he was resisting, and not after the handcuffs had been applied to both hands. Bowman said that the poor quality of the video has caused confusion over this point, adding: “Whatever people think they are hearing, it is not the sound of handcuffs before the last baton strike.” Siegel is a 15-year veteran; Payne, a three year veteran of the force, is a combat veteran and son of a veteran officer.

The Mercury News provided a copy of the tape recording to police officials last Thursday with the approval of Ho’s attorney, and they promptly launched the investigation.

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