Attorneys Tuesday filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Long Beach and several of its police officers on behalf of a mentally ill Black man who was allegedly beaten without provocation by officers in an arrest captured on cell-phone video that sparked public protests.
According to lawyers for 24-year-old Eugene Martindale III, the incident began when their client — who does not drive nor own a cell phone — was suffering from anxiety the afternoon of Feb. 15 when he approached a vehicle parked in front of a 7-Eleven at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Street to ask occupants if they would call his father to come help him.
Police allege that Martindale was attempting to steal a car and resisted their commands. His lawyers counter that he was doing neither and the alleged beating was racially motivated and carried out by members of a “secret group” of racist Long Beach police officers.
A representative of the Long Beach City Attorney’s Office said the office has not yet received the complaint, and had no immediate comment.
A representative for 7-Eleven — which was named a defendant because of the involvement of one of its security guards — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit alleges that the security guard assumed Martindale was attempting to steal a car, and Tasered him. Shortly afterwards, Long Beach police arrived and ordered Martindale to the ground, and the incident turned violent, the lawsuit states.
A bystander videotaped the encounter, which depicts an officer hitting Martindale’s legs with a baton while trying to handcuff him. Police say Martindale resisted, prompting the blows.
Martindale was arrested on suspicion of attempted carjacking. Police say the video clip does not show the entire incident, in which the suspect was arrested for allegedly trying to carjack several vehicles in the area, including a parking enforcement vehicle, and then allegedly resisted arrest.
In March, Martindale pleaded no contest to resisting an officer and was sentenced to a year in jail, three years of formal probation and was ordered to enroll in a mental health program.
The video prompted a few dozen people to march through downtown Long Beach in protest.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Toni Jaramilla, a Los Angeles civil rights attorney and activist, said the allegations against Long Beach police were not surprising.
“Once again, we have an unarmed Black man, who was brutalized by law enforcement,” she alleged in a statement. “For those of you who say you just have to cooperate with law enforcement if you do not want to get hurt, Mr. Martindale’s case shows that even if you cooperate, you place your hand in surrender position to show you have no weapons, you drop to the ground as told, you don’t resist, law enforcement may still beat you for no apparent reason, other than perhaps the color of your skin.”
The suit seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress and physical pain, and loss of income.
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