12 News has received cell phone video of an intense encounter between two Mesa police officers and a man arrested after officers stopped him for an alleged jaywalking violation.
"I’d never heard a man scream like that before, and I just thought 'This is wrong,'” said John, one of two witnesses who recorded video of what happened June 19.
The arrest happened just after 10 p.m. that night at the intersection of Main Street and Extension Road in Mesa.
John said it all started while he and his friend were waiting at the stoplight and saw a cop car whiz by.
“They (police) quickly turned around and I thought they were going to pull me over,” he said.
Instead, the police unit pulled up to a man walking on the sidewalk. John said the officer sitting in the passenger seat exited the vehicle.
“I did see the guy (man on sidewalk) just turn around and start walking the other way,” John told 12 News. “That's when the cop just got out and slammed him.”
From there, John said, things quickly escalated with the second officer, who’d been driving, exiting the police car and running to help his partner.
“The other cop ran and kneed him right in the face, dropped him, and then the other cop continued to punch him,” John said.
In the video, you can see the officers repeatedly striking and at one point kneeing the man several times.
The officers can also be heard yelling for the man to stop resisting as the suspect himself can be heard yelling out.
“At that point, they were just punching him, kneeing him and the guy was screaming,” John said.
John and his friend left the scene as additional officers started to arrive.
While both men were bothered by what they’d witnessed, they weren’t sure what to do with the video.
John said he contemplated taking it straight to the Mesa Police Department but decided to reach out to 12 News with the hopes of finding out more about what led to the arrest.
“I was just thinking he must have done something really bad,” John said.
We reached out to Mesa PD and got a hold of the police report and footage from the officers' body cameras that night.
According to the police report, the officers stopped the man, who's since been identified as 35-year-old Jason Michael Barton, for an alleged jaywalking violation, or as it's stated in the report, "walking against the don’t walk sign."
The body cam footage shows the officer riding in the passenger seat of the patrol unit exiting the vehicle, then confronting Barton on the sidewalk.
When initially contacted by the officer, Barton appears to try and take off on foot before being grabbed and taken down by the officer.
The video from the officer driving the police unit shows him parking the patrol car, then running to help his partner.
As the officer approaches the ongoing confrontation, he appears to physically strike Barton with his body while yelling, “You’re jaywalking!”
In the police report, officers stated that Barton attempted to discard a baggy of marijuana during the scuffle.
“It's an escalation of events,” said Det. Nikolas Rasheta, who is a spokesperson for the Mesa Police Department.
We showed Rasheta the video and asked whether he felt the officers’ use of force was justified for an incident triggered by an alleged jaywalking violation.
“A lot of these situations wouldn't get there if there was compliance along the way,” Rasheta said.
Rasheta pointed to the body camera footage in which Barton appears to try and run away while being confronted by the first officer.
After reviewing the cell phone video and body camera footage, he said he stands by the officers’ actions and does not believe they used excessive force for the situation, even if the man's only observed crime was jaywalking.
“Had this person not run, there wouldn't have been a use of force,” Rasheta told 12 News. "Had this person not resisted detention, there wouldn't have been a use of force.”
Footage from additional officers did show another bystander at the scene that night.
An officer can be heard asking the man, “Did you see what happened?”
The man is heard replying, “I seen the police hitting him in the face like five times.”
But the man did not want to give a formal statement.
“If you're getting punched and kneed, what are you going to do?” John asked. “You’re not going to sit there and lay flat. you’re going to try and put your hands up, maybe cover your face."
While John has a different take on what happened in the video, he also wanted to make it clear that he knows cops have a tough job.
“There's bad people and cops are there to protect and serve,” he said.
But when it comes to this case, the one he witnessed in person, he doesn’t believe the man’s actions warranted the use of force displayed by officers in the video.
“When I see it on social media (other controversial videos of police), I always think to myself, 'Well, what did the guy do?'” John said. “But this time, I saw everything from the beginning.
“He (Barton) was just walking and for them to do something like that, there are no words to explain it. It was bad.”
Police said Barton was treated for minor injuries before being booked into jail on several charges, including evading arrest and drug possession for the baggy of marijuana.
12 News wanted to speak with him but were unable to locate a permanent address for him and one was not listed on the police report.
As for the issue of jaywalking?
Back in May, Mesa police announced that due to a string of pedestrian deaths, they would be taking jaywalking violations more seriously.
Rasheta told 12 News this stop was part of that increased enforcement.
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