Attorneys said they plan to file a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday 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 in a cell-phone video that sparked public protests.
According to attorneys 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 message for comment sent to city of Long Beach attorneys was not immediately answered.
The lawsuit contends that a 7-Eleven security guard assumed Martindale was attempting to steal a car and tasered him. Long Beach police arrived and ordered Martindale to the ground. While obeying, one of the officers placed him in a wristlock and used a choke hold, the lawsuit alleges.
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 jail time, 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.
Toni Jaramilla, a Los Angeles civil rights attorney and activist who plans a new conference Tuesday to announce the filing of the lawsuit, said the allegations against her client.
“Once again, we have an unarmed Black man, who was brutalized by law enforcement,” she said 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, with amounts to be determined at trial.
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