STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) — Two Stockton police officers were fired for using excessive force while arresting a teenager on Dec. 30, the police department said Tuesday.
Investigators say officers tried to pull over someone in a Mercedes who was “driving erratically and speeding in excess of 100 mph.” Police say the driver turned off his headlights before leading officers on a three-minute chase.
During the brief pursuit, a Stockton police vehicle collided with an uninvolved car, officials said.
The chase ended when one of the patrol cars used a PIT maneuver, causing the teenage driver to lose control and crash.
The four officers involved used force while arresting the driver, police said. The driver was taken to the hospital before being booked into juvenile hall.
Days later, civil rights attorney John Burris announced a civil action had been filed against the officers who arrested the 17-year-old Black high school senior.
Burris said the teenager, who had no criminal record, did not know he was being followed by police along the dark backroads on the outskirts of the city. He said the teenager was fearful of Stockton police and was trying to get to his father’s house nearby.
After the Mercedes crashed, Burris said the 17-year-old had his hands above the steering wheel when he was “violently yanked” from the car.
The attorney said the boy was beaten by the group of officers, who punched and kicked him in his face, side and back for roughly three to five minutes.
Burris said the teenager went into the fetal position during the alleged beating and did not resist arrest.
“The officers acted like a pack of wild wolves who had no respect for the safety and well-being of this young African American male. Here the officer tried to justify the assault by falsely claiming that the young man was resisting and even at the hospital, when asked by the medical staff about the cause of these terrible injuries, the police officer lied, claiming that the boy had been in a fight,” Burris wrote in January’s statement.
In a statement released Tuesday, Chief Eric Jones said two of the four officers involved in the arrest “were well outside the scope of both our policy and training.”
Administrative investigations take time to complete, and that is to ensure there is fairness for all involved parties. Even though from the beginning I was deeply concerned and placed the four involved officers on administrative leave, I had to wait for the investigation to be finished to completely understand the full scope and severity of this incident. Now that the investigation has ended, I feel the responsibility to be transparent about some of the officers’ actions that evening.
The investigation determined two of the involved officers were well outside the scope of both our policy and training. Our department has policies that state we should make attempts to avoid striking an arrestee around the head and neck area when possible. Given this set of circumstances, I cannot and will not condone any excessive force. Additionally, any use of profanity is considered unwarranted and not professional.Eric Jones, Stockton Police Chief
Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln also released a statement in response to the firings.
… As Mayor representing the citizens of Stockton, and as a father of two teenage children in this city, I still am deeply saddened and concerned with what took place during this incident.
The use of excessive force is unacceptable and will not be condoned in Stockton. The disciplinary actions administered today to the officers involved are steps toward ensuring accountability and justice for all. Protecting public trust and improving community-police relations is vital to the healing and restoration of our city.Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln
The two officers who were fired were identified as Officer Michael Stiles and Officer Omar Villapudua. Stiles had been with the department since June 2018 and Villapudua was hired in January 2016.
Jones said the driver’s family has seen the body camera footage of the arrest but the video would not be released publicly.
The incident is also being investigated by the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office.