Police in Stockton, Calif., are defending themselves from accusations of police brutality after video emerged Thursday of an officer striking a 16-year-old boy in the face with a baton over a minor offense.
Emilio Mayfield was downtown trying to catch a bus to his high school on Tuesday morning when he wandered into the bus lane.
When an unidentified Stockton police officer told Mayfield to exit the bus lane, the teenager allegedly shot back with some choice words that led to a scuffle, a baton strike to the face, a viral video, angry protests and accusations of police brutality.
“I felt traumatized,” Mayfield told CBS Sacramento. “I was beaten and slammed on the floor.”
The teen’s arrest is the latest in a string of contentious interactions between police and civilians to be captured on video, from the fatal shootings of Walter Scott and Sam DuBose to the ill-fated arrest of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. As is often the case, the video reflects an incomplete picture of what happened; in this case, it does not show what went on between the officer and the teen in the bus lane.
The incident in Stockton began just before 7 a.m. as Mayfield, a skinny teen whose Facebook feed is dominated by selfies showing his six pack, was trying to catch the bus to Cesar Chavez High School.
According to police, Mayfield began walking in a bus lane when an officer assigned to the bus stop spotted him.
“An Officer asked him to use the crosswalk for his own safety but the suspect ignored the officer,” according to a Stockton Police Department report. “Due to the continued safety hazard, the officer attempted to detain the suspect by telling him to stop.”
The situation escalated quickly from a minor offense to a national news story.
“F— You, I’m not stopping for you,” Mayfield allegedly told the officer, according to the police report.
“The officer grabbed the suspect’s arm but he pulled away and took a fighting stance,” the report continues. “The officer used his [baton] to push the suspect to the ground and hold him there while waiting for back up.”
At this point, a bystander began filming the altercation, with the officer pressing down with his baton onto the teenager, who can be seen in the bystander’s video curled up in a ball on his back and yelling “Get off” in apparent pain.
A crowd quickly began forming near the scuffle as a woman screamed: “It’s a f——g kid.”
“Get off of him,” she said. “He is a kid.”
The officer, meanwhile, can be seen in the video repeatedly telling Mayfield to “stop resisting.”
Several seconds into the video, Mayfield sat up and told the officer to “Get the f— off me,” all while gripping the officer’s baton.
The officer then swung his baton side to side three times, striking Mayfield in the face at least once. The teen immediately released the baton and put his hands to his face.
“Stay on the ground,” the cop said, pointing at Mayfield
“Get off of him. He’s a f—–g kid,” the woman off camera screamed once again. “You’re a f—–g adult. What’s wrong with you mother-f—-r? He’s a f—–g kid. For f—–g jaywalking?”
When the officer told Mayfield to turn around, the injured teen refused, instead holding his face.
As bystanders yelled and sirens began sounding in the distance, the officer called for backup.
“He didn’t do nothing wrong,” the woman shouted. “That is a child that was jaywalking.”
The officer was then joined by three other police who wrestled Mayfield to the ground and handcuffed him as roughly half a dozen other cops encircled the officers arresting Mayfield and watched the crowd.
“All this for a kid?” the woman yelled. “He’s a baby.”
Mayfield was then loaded into a police vehicle and taken to the station, where he was cited for trespassing (in the bus lane) and resisting arrest.
“The suspect grabbed the [baton] so the officer twisted it to break the suspect’s grip at which point the suspect was hit in the face,” according to the police report. “Additional officers arrived and the suspect was taken into custody without further incident. The suspect refused medical and had no injury. He was cited and released to his mother for [trespassing in a city park] and Resisting Arrest.”
The bystander who uploaded the video to Facebook roughly three hours later, however, had a different take on the situation.
“The kid got stopped for ‘jaywalking’ when he barely stepped out of the bus,” wrote Edgar Avendaño. “He was 2 feet away from the sidewalk when the cop stopped him for ‘jaywalking.’ The cop was telling him to take a [seat] but the teen kept walking to his bus but the cop kept grabbing his arm & the kid took off the cop’s hand off his arm so the cop took out his baton & that’s when I started recording because everything happened too quick.
“He didn’t have to hit the kid with the baton & no need to call about 20 cops,” Avendaño said. “And as you can see his body cam is on the floor. smh [shake my head].”
In an interview with CBS Sacramento, Mayfield said he didn’t deserve to be manhandled.
“I see myself as a great young man, successful in school,” he said.
Stockton NAACP president Bobby Bivens, who met with the teen and his family in public before cameras after the altercation, echoed bystanders’ disbelief.
“The behavior of the officer was totally out of line,” he told CBS Sacramento. “There’s no reason for him to attack this young man as he did.”
In an interview with The Washington Post, however, Stockton Police public information officer Joseph Silva said that Mayfield’s arrest was of his own making.
“If people would just comply with the lawful order of police officers and definitely not try to grab or hold onto our weapons, then force would not have to be used,” Silva told The Post.
As for allegations of police brutality, Silva said the officer was simply acting out a “weapon retention technique.”
“Any police officer cannot and will not allow anyone to take their weapon away from them,” he said. “But once again, if that 16-year-old had just complied with the officer’s commands and gotten out of the bus lane, none of this would have happened.”
Silva could not say whether the officer’s body camera, which was knocked off before Avendaño began filming, was recording at the time of the incident. Stockton police began wearing body cameras earlier this summer but, according to a copy of the department policy obtained by The Post, do not automatically film all interactions.
“Unless it is unsafe or impractical to do so, officers should record pedestrian contacts, interviews, and other events when the recording has value as evidence, to limit liability, to resolve citizen complaints, or as a training tool in … enforcement encounters where there is a reasonable suspicion the person is involved in criminal activity,” the policy states. “This includes… any other contact that becomes adversarial after the initial contact in a situation that would not otherwise require taping.”
Neither Mayfield nor his parents could be reached by The Post for comment Thursday night, but the family has filed an official complaint against the officer, Silva said.
The Stockton Police Department spokesman also said the department would be conducting an “internal administrative review, so our investigators can look at the totality of the circumstances.” He said the review would include bystander video, surveillance footage from the bus depot and the officer’s body camera footage, if the equipment captured the incident.
According to a preliminary review of the case, “the officer was possibly within policy, since he had to get his baton back,” Silva said.
Some Stockton residents did not agree, however. They stood outside the police station with signs on Thursday to protest the teenager’s arrest.
If prosecuted as an adult and convicted, Mayfield could face up to a year in jail.