Local Tucson, Arizona, news station KOLD obtained graphic video footage of a Pima County Sheriff’s Department officer forcibly restraining and aggressively yelling in the face of a quadruple amputee, who is a teenager, in a group home for kids who were abandoned by their parents. After the video surfaced, the sheriff’s department told KOLD they would launch an investigation into the incident a public defender called “horrific.”
The white Pima County police officer holds a shirtless black teenager, identified as 15-year-old Immanuel by the Washington Post, in a headlock. In the eight-minute cell phone video footage, Immanuel continues to yell and the officer pins Immanuel down against the side of a refrigerator, telling him to calm down. After more than a minute, the officer lets Immanuel up and asks what his problem is. Immanuel says he doesn’t have a problem, but the officer gets in his face and further screams at the teenager.
The video footage was captured by another resident of the group home, 16-year-old C.J., who tried to intervene while the cop was yelling in Immanuel’s face. The officer asks C.J. if he’s filming. He then walks over to C.J., who is eating his cereal in a room next to the kitchen, and starts yelling at him too. C.J. hands the phone off to another teenager in the group home to continue recording while the officer continues to antagonize Immanuel. While arresting C.J. alongside another deputy who passively stands by, the officer slams C.J.’s head into the wall. Both boys were jailed and charged with disorderly conduct.
You can watch a clip from the cell phone video below, which KOLD received from the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. The video is graphic and shows disturbing footage that is hard to watch, so you may want to skip the video.
According to the Washington Post, the group home where Immanuel lives called police after Immanuel became upset on Sept. 26, knocking over a trash can and yelling. Immanuel is in state custody because he was abandoned by his parents. Pima County Public Defender Joel Feinman, who is defending Immanuel and C.J., told the Post that emotional outbursts are understandable in young people like Immanuel who have survived significant trauma. The officer should have worked to deescalate the situation without force instead.
“Fifteen-year-olds who have not been through what Immanuel went through act out all the time,” Feinman said. “These are kids who have already been traumatized in some way… We’re public defenders, so we have an iron stomach for a lot of things, but this was especially terrible.”
Police violence against people with disabilities is not uncommon. According to a 2016 Ruderman Family Foundation white paper, up to half of people killed by police every year have a disability. Despite high rates of violence from police, people with disabilities are more likely to be the victim of a crime rather than a perpetrator. A 2015 National Crime Victimization Survey found that people with disabilities were 2.5 times more likely than the general public to be the victim of a violent crime, with rates highest for teenagers between the ages of 12 and 15.
According to KOLD, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department was unaware of the incident or the existence of video footage. After seeing the video, the department said it would investigate. Feinman told KOLD officers like the one shown in the video should not be allowed to carry a badge or a gun. An event posted on Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page on Friday suggested the department will be raising money for the Special Olympics.
“These are kids who live in a group home because they can’t live with their parents,” Feinman told the Washington Post. “This is exactly the type of person that law enforcement needs to protect and defend. Instead we see them being treated like they’re animals.”
The Mighty reached out to Pima County Sheriff’s Department for comment and has yet to hear back.