Body-camera video shows Glendale police officers continued to use a stun gun on a suspect after handcuffing him.
Thomas Hawthorne, The Republic | azcentral.com
Glendale police body-camera video shows two officers repeatedly using a Taser on a man in 2017 while his two frightened children watch — an incident that has prompted a federal lawsuit and one officer’s suspension.
Johnny Wheatcroft, 39, was with his wife, Anya Chapman, 36, their two children, ages 6 and 11, and a family friend when Glendale Officers Matt Schneider and Mark Lindsey approached their car after a traffic stop July 26, 2017, according to the lawsuit and information provided by Glendale police.
The video shows the officers asking Wheatcroft, the front-seat passenger, to show them his driver’s license. He declined and questioned why he needed to identify himself.
Glendale police, in a statement released Friday, said Wheatcroft also was reaching under the seat for a backpack and officers asked him to stop.
Officers eventually threatened to use a Taser if Wheatcroft did not exit the vehicle, the video shows.
From there, the situation escalated, with police pulling him from the vehicle while his seat belt still was latched.
In the video, Wheatcroft can be heard saying, “I’m not doing nothing,” repeatedly. As he is partway out of the vehicle, police begin using the Tasers, doing so repeatedly as the man is pulled from the vehicle and then onto the ground as his children can be heard screaming in the background.
The newly released police body-camera footage was provided to The Arizona Republic on Friday by an attorney for the couple.
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The incident prompted the federal lawsuit filed in November 2018, which claims police used excessive force and violated Wheatcroft’s civil rights. It contends Wheatcroft and his family suffered from trauma and physical and emotional damages.
Glendale police, in Friday’s statement, said after the traffic stop, the officer discovered the driver, who was the family friend, did not have a license and observed a seat-belt violation in the vehicle as well.
Police said Wheatcroft “exhibited verbal non-compliance by refusing to identify himself and failed to obey the officer’s instructions,” when he reached into a backpack despite officers telling him to stop.
This led to officers trying to remove Wheatcroft from the car “so they could maintain a safe eye on him for the duration of the traffic stop as well as conduct a pat down for weapons,” according to the statement from Glendale police.
Police said Chapman swung a bag filled with bottled drinks at Officer Lindsey, knocking him unconscious, and causing Schneider to continue deploying the Taser as he called for backup.
Police, while not releasing the body-cam video, did provide a surveillance-camera video of the incident that shows part of the confrontation from a distance.
Surveillance-camera video released by Glendale police shows officers arresting Johnny Wheatcroft in 2017. A lawsuit alleges excessive force by police.
Glendale Police Department
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Arizona by attorneys Marc Victor and Jody Broudas, alleges that the officers used “unlawful, unnecessary, unreasonable, and excessive force, which resulted in life-altering injuries to Plaintiff Johnny Wheatcroft and his family.”
The lawsuit alleges that officers Tased Wheatcroft multiple times in the back and in the chest while on the hot asphalt. A technique known as a “drive stun” in which the Taser, normally fired from a distance, is pressed against a person, also was used, both police and the lawsuit say.
After Wheatcroft was handcuffed, Officer Schneider continued to use the Taser several times, the lawsuit says.
Another officer then “slammed Wheatcroft face down onto the asphalt while Schneider continued to Tase him, while also kicking him in the groin,” the lawsuit says.
The final Tasing occurred when Officer Schneider “pulled down Plaintiff’s shorts and Tased his testicles and perineum,” the lawsuit says.
As a group of officers began removing the Taser prongs, “Schneider placed his Taser on Johnny Wheatcroft’s penis and screamed, ‘Keep fighting and you’re going to get it again! You want it again? Shut your mouth!’ the lawsuit contends.
Police, in the statement, said Wheatcroft eventually calmed down and both he and Chapman were arrested.
They both initially were charged with aggravated assault and physically resisting arrest. The charges against Wheatcroft eventually were dismissed. Chapman pleaded guilty to a reduced count, according to Maricopa County Superior Court records.
The lawsuit names the city of Glendale, Schneider, Lindsey and a third officer, MIchael Fernandez, as defendants. The suit does not specify a damage amount being sought.
Glendale police said that after the incident, Schneider was suspended for three days.
“The drive stun with the Taser device administered by the officer after the suspect was handcuffed and no longer resisting did not fall within our response to resistance policy,” said Officer Tiffany Ngalula, a Police Department spokeswoman.
Lindsey, who was struck by the bottles, was treated at a hospital and returned to duty several days later, police said.
After the couple had been taken to jail, officers found “a usable quantity of methamphetamine” inside the vehicle, according to the Police Department news release. Court records did not show either Wheatcroft or Chapman facing a drug charge.
Wheatcroft is currently in prison on an unrelated burglary charge.
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