PHOENIX — A Valley man is coming forward with his own claim of excessive force against the same Phoenix police officer at the center of the controversial confrontation gaining worldwide attention.
Dante Patterson says he was pepper sprayed by the officer while he was walking away and complying. Phoenix police investigated the incident and found no evidence of misconduct.
“He sprayed me, total I would say about three times, and it was a lot. People couldn’t breathe in the area for a while, and it was an outside area," said Patterson.
It happened in January of 2018 when Patterson was with a colleague and his family at Castles N' Coasters.
“Some kids were just bothering me. Told them to leave me alone. It wasn’t a big deal. We ended up leaving the park to go take a smoke break," Patterson said.
But when Patterson walked back into the amusement park, he was approached by an off-duty uniformed officer, Christopher Meyer. Police told 12 News Patterson had been kicked out.
“And he said, 'Didn’t you leave?' and I said, 'Yes, we went to take a smoke break we weren’t escorted out at all,'" Patterson said, saying he was never kicked out.
Patterson said Officer Meyer's tone quickly elevated and he told Patterson to leave.
“And then he pulled out his pepper spray and said, 'You have five seconds or I’m gonna spray you,'" said Patterson.
Officer Meyer was not wearing a body camera, but park surveillance video shows as Patterson is walking towards the exit, the officer pepper sprays him.
“When they have your face in the ground in the cement and you have that pepper spray in you, you can’t breathe. It’s all in your sinuses," Patterson said.
Patterson, who was legally carrying a gun, was then arrested and charged with aggravated assault on an officer. According to the police report, Officer Meyer pepper sprayed Patterson because he, "turned around facing Officer Meyer a second time, postured with his fists clenched, raised in front of him in a fighting stance, squared off toward the officer."
But Patterson says the video does not show that.
“They said, 'Hey, did you put your hands up towards the officer, square off with him? Because that’s what’s in the report.' And I was like, 'What?!'” said Patterson.
Days later, Patterson filed his first of two complaints with the Phoenix Police Department's Professional Standards Bureau, asking for Officer Meyer's actions to be investigated.
A Phoenix Police spokesperson sent 12 News the following information about the January 2018 incident:
This incident was looked into by the Professional Standards Bureau and no misconduct was identified. Apparently, Mr. Patterson was escorted out of Castles and Coasters by employees for disruptive behavior. Mr. Patterson illegally reentered the property. The officer was contacting Mr. Patterson for violation of trespassing. As he was escorting him to the exit he was disruptive, cursing and flailing his arms. At one point, he turned towards the officer with clenched fists in a fighting stance. His behavior was witnessed by employees of the facility. He was sprayed with OC spray and he was ordered to the ground and taken into custody. He was also found to have a loaded .45 caliber pistol in his front waste band. [sic] Mr. Patterson was advised of the findings.
Ultimately, Patterson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct as part of a plea deal. The Professional Standards Bureau looked into Patterson's complaints, clearing Officer Meyer and stating there was no misconduct.
“I just don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. He’s gonna do it again. I told them that last year," said Patterson.
Now, Patterson says what he feared has become reality after the same officer was seen on video taken last month during a heated confrontation with a young family after an alleged shoplifting incident.
“It was overwhelming when I saw this, especially when I saw the badge number, because I memorized Christopher Meyer’s badge number for a while," Patterson said.
Phoenix police are now investigating Meyer for this latest incident, which has prompted Patterson to speak out again about his case.
“Just know that I’m not gonna stop until something is done," said Patterson during Tuesday night's city meeting.