Video of Terrence Kirkpatrick’s brutal arrest at the hands of Mesa police officers last year made national headlines last year amid the department’s growing scandal over repeated instances of excessive force. On Thursday, Kirkpatrick filed a lawsuit against the city of Mesa and several police officers, accusing them of breaking his wrist and laughing at him when he said he was in pain.
On November 17, 2017, Kirkpatrick and his roommates called the police for help after someone tried to break into their apartment. When cops found Kirkpatrick had two misdemeanor warrants for nonviolent crimes, they decided to arrest him.
In the video, Mesa cops can be heard repeatedly shouting at Kirkpatrick to “stop resisting” and “stand up.” Kirkpatrick’s roommate said “he’s not resisting!” in bodycam footage of the arrest. Kirkpatrick said while Mesa cops were shouting at him to stand up, they were making that impossible by holding him down.
Cops cuffed Kirkpatrick, then dragged him outside and hog-tied him, placing him face-down on the pavement and shackling his ankles to his wrists. At least 14 times, Kirkpatrick told police his wrist was in extreme pain and begged them to loosen the cuffs. Mesa cops simply laughed and said, “it’s supposed to” hurt and “that’s what you get when you fight the police.”
The incident was one of many recent high-profile use-of-force incidents that brought national attention to the Mesa police department’s high number of excessively violent arrests. In the past three years, Mesa cops have also come under fire for officers repeatedly punching one man in the head for taking too long to sit down, assaulting a handcuffed 15-year-old, tackling an 84-year-old grandmother and leaving her severely injured, shooting an unarmed man as he begged for his life in a hotel hallway, jeering at a man they had just beat as he lay on a hospital floor in a pool of blood, and using a stun gun on a man who was already handcuffed and lying on the ground.
Mesa cop Nicholas Webster, who handcuffed Kirkpatrick and allegedly fractured his wrist, is named in the lawsuit as being particularly forceful. “Webster’s use of handcuffs as an instrument of torture was a violation of Plaintiff’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to be free from the use of excessive force, due process under the law, and equal protection under the law,” the lawsuit states.
In May, Kirkpatrick received a letter from Mesa police stating that the department’s internal investigation into the evening was complete and that all the allegations against Webster’s actions were sustained.
A spokesperson for Mesa police told Phoenix New Times Webster is still serving as an officer with the Mesa Police Department and has the right to appeal any discipline he is given.
“I should be able to ask why you’re telling me to get up,” Kirkpatrick said of the unnecessarily escalated situation at a press conference last year. “I’m a human being as well. I have rights.”
VIDEO: Terence Kirkpatrick, 30, told the press that Mesa PD used excessive force during his arrest and then called him the N-word pic.twitter.com/EHcXfBHnww
— azcentral (@azcentral) June 7, 2018
“This is a human being; they had him tied up like he was some sort of big game animal,” said East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem. “We are not going to let the Mesa Police Department get away with this anymore.”
The officers charged Kirkpatrick with four felonies for aggravated assault against a police officer and resisting arrest. Three of the charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal in which Kirkpatrick pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. The case docket in Maricopa County Superior Court indicates Kirkpatrick was sentenced to probation after the violent arrest.
Since Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista assumed office about two years ago, he has tried to take responsibility for his officers’ many excessive use-of-force incidents. Batista has had officers undergo implicit bias and de-escalation training, and brought in an independent investigator to examine the department’s use-of-force incidents.
But his work to hold problematic officers accountable has earned the ire of his employees, who recently initiated an effort to remove the chief, calling him a “liberal snowflake.”
Kirkpatrick is demanding a jury trial and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.