PHOENIX - A blind man claims he was slammed to the ground and falsely arrested by a Phoenix police officer, in an incident that was partially caught on camera by a bystander.
“He just came out of nowhere," an emotional Marco Zepeda told 12 News.
The incident happened on June 15 in a restroom at a QuikTrip near 83rd Avenue and McDowell Road.
Zepeda said he was snapping his fingers and feeling around for the urinal, when he was shoved by the officer without warning.
He said he pushed the officer back and began wrestling with him, claiming he had no idea he was fighting with a police officer.
“He grabbed and he screamed at me ‘I told you I was the police.’ But he never did it. I swear to God he never did it," Zepeda said.
Witness Walter Gastelum was inside a stall at the time and recorded a 10-second Snapchat video of the incident.
In the video, Zepeda can be heard speaking both English and Spanish, saying "I'm blind" in English and "I’m blind. Do you see my eyes? Look." in Spanish.
Zepeda said the officer never identified himself until he slammed him to the ground. Gastelum is calling the incident police brutality.
“After I opened the door, the police officer stood up, looked up at me, he’s like, ‘He hit me first,'" Gastelum said. "And I was like, ‘He’s blind.'"
The Phoenix Police Department confirmed to 12 News that the officer pushed Zepeda, but said it was because he was approached while using the bathroom.
Police also said there were no physical indicators that Zepeda was visually impaired. According to them, the officer did not know Zepeda was blind until he was detained.
Zepeda, however, says he was wearing a white plastic orbital prosthetic at the time.
"Marco kept screaming, ‘I’m blind. I can’t see. I’m blind. I’m blind,'" Gastelum said. "You can clearly see that he's blind. I don't know how you can miss that."
Additionally, the Phoenix Police Department said the officer suffered minor injuries after Zepeda punched him in the face.
Zepeda says although he deals with harassment on the street all the time, he would never punch anyone.
“I’m telling the truth. There’s no reason for me to lie to the public,” he said.
Zepeda was booked for aggravated assault, but Phoenix police say the charges were dismissed by the Maricopa County attorney.
After spending a night in jail, Zepeda says he would like to file a complaint and is considering a lawsuit. He has yet to start either.
"To go to prison, it's freaking hard. It's a nightmare for me," he said.
The witness said the officer was out of line to arrest Zepeda.
"He’s an officer. He shouldn’t have responded like that. If anything he should’ve guided him," Gastelum said. "The cops are here to serve and protect, not to harass and collect. That's the truth."
A GoFundMe has been set up to support Zepeda.