A Black man with a mental disability is suing a California city, some of its cops and a 7-Eleven security guard, alleging he was “violently” assaulted during an “unlawful” arrest amid a mental health crisis.
Eugene Martindale III filed his excessive force complaint Tuesday after obtaining bystander video showing a Long Beach Police officer striking him repeatedly with a baton while he was facedown on the ground Feb. 15, his lawyer Toni Jaramilla said.
Martindale, 25, claims in his suit filed in federal court in Los Angeles that he was beaten without provocation after he “desperately” but peacefully sought someone willing to help him call his father.
His 42-page filing alleges he approached a car in a 7-Eleven parking lot with the hope of finding a kindhearted stranger and was confronted by the store’s private security guard who ended up stunning him with a hand-held Taser.
He then ran to a nearby parking enforcement vehicle and was “begging” for assistance when the security guard allegedly stunned him again, his filing claims.
When Long Beach Police officers arrived at the scene, Martindale allegedly raised his hands to surrender and show he was unarmed, his paperwork states.
He complied with officer commands and “immediately laid down on his stomach,” his filing claims.
Martindale cried, “I can’t breathe” multiple times before one of the officers “swung violently” at his legs and struck him at least 12 times, the lawsuit alleges.
“This is a case about not only an unarmed Black man, but one with a mental illness who was simply seeking help,” Jaramilla told the Daily News in a phone interview Tuesday.
She called the responding Long Beach Police officers “utterly untrained and unqualified to address issues of mental illness” and said they “escalated” the situation without probable cause.
“They put him in a carotid chokehold, pinned him to the ground, beat him and arrested him instead of calling for medical assistance,” she said.
Video of the arrest sparked public protests in Long Beach.
The city attorney for Long Beach did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Martindale’s lawsuit includes claims of battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and goes on to accuse the Long Beach Police Department of harboring a “secret group” of police officers that encourages or “turns a blind eye” to police misconduct against citizens, “especially citizens of color.”
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