October 27, 2009
San Jose police deny excessive force in arrest of studentThe 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 â€” 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.