TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona prosecutors dropped disorderly conduct charges against a 15-year-old quadruple amputee after viewing video of a sheriff’s deputy wrestling him to the floor in a group home, the teen’s attorney said Friday.
Samuel Jurgena, a Pima County public defender, said his client went public with cellphone video of the September incident in Tucson to prompt changes in police treatment of youths in group homes.
“I think everyone feels in my office this cop should not be out here with a badge and a gun if this is how he’s treating kids in group homes,” Jurgena told The Associated Press.
The AP is withholding the teen’s name because of his age.
KOLD-TV reported Thursday night that the Pima County Attorney’s Office said it decided to drop the charges immediately after seeing the video, which was shot by another resident.
A worker had called 911 after the 15-year-old allegedly knocked over a trash can and made a verbal threat, according to authorities.
The teen said he was already on the ground when police got there.
“Instead of getting down on his level to talk to him, the first interaction was the cop standing over him and yelling at him,” Jurgena said.
The sheriff’s department has said it is investigating the incident but declined further comment.
The start of the eight-minute video shows the deputy tussling on the kitchen floor with the boy, who is screaming and cursing. The deputy then uses his body to pin the teen on his side. After about two minutes, the officer gets up. He then talks to the teen, telling him to “shut the hell up.”
The boy did not suffer any physical injuries. But Jurgena said the treatment he endured was nevertheless appalling.
“He does not have the ability to fight back in a way like a normal person would,” Jurgena said.
The video later shows another teenage boy being handcuffed. Jurgena said that boy, 16, was the one initially filming. Deputies caused him to hit his head on a wall and then put him in a patrol vehicle, according to Jurgena. He was then released.
James Allerton, a Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, identified the deputy in the video as Deputy Manuel Van Santen, who did not immediately return a phone message left by the AP seeking comment.
An 11-year veteran, Van Santen has been placed on administrative leave while the agency conducts the internal investigation.