Family, Community Demands Justice for Man Severely Burned While Being Arrested

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CITRUS HEIGHTS -- Family says he was pinned to the ground by police on a 101 degree day. Police painted a different story saying James Nelson was acting erratically, and threatened people at a Citrus Heights KFC.

"His whole abdomen, all the way up to his neck, his neck, the whole right side of his face is burned, and then they took skin off his quads, so his quads is all ripped up. So he's just a bloody mess," Jame's mother, Tarsha Ross said.

Nelson, 28, has been in a hospital burn unit for 29 days with second and third degree burns that cover 45 percent of his body.

These are life-threatening injuries he sustained while he was being arrested in Citrus Heights.

"Mr. Nelson was only on the ground long enough to safely control him," Lt. David Gutierrez with Citrus Heights Police said.

The police department couldn't say the exact amount of time officers held Nelson down on hot pavement, bare-chested, on a 101 degree June day.

"Police officers often times don`t get to predict where an arrest will take place," Gutierrez said.

But, they did make surveillance video taken inside the KFC public almost immediately afterward.

The video shows Nelson acting erratically inside the restaurant -- swiping at an employee and hopping over the counter.

Officers say he appeared to be on drugs.

"Protocol is to take control of the scene and safely detain individuals. They also have to protect themselves and protect the community," Gutierrez said.

"To serve to help and protect! Not to cause harm! And they harmed my son and they left him for dead. That's how I feel! And now they won't give me no answers," Ross said.

Ross says her son was having a schizophrenic episode, that the responding officers tortured him and then exaggerated about his behavior to justify their own.

"Yes! And his organs are still failing," Lucille Ross said.

When Nelson gets out of the hospital he could be going straight to jail.

Police have filed a felony arrest warrant for attempted robbery, being under the influence of a controlled substance and resisting arrest.

Nelson's family hired an attorney.

"If this was your family member or you you would want answers," Ross said.