March 27, 2013
Cell phone footage showcasing various misdeeds perpetrated by the Omaha, Nebraska police department brought to light a number of questionable actions that took place during an arrest earlier this month.
The video, filmed by a vigilant neighbor and posted to YouTube last week, captures cars in the middle of being towed, and shows one officer put his arm around a man’s neck, slam him to the street and then punch him repeatedly before another officer joins him.
Moments later, another man observed filming from the road gets chased into his home by an officer, followed by at least 9 more police officers.
KETV News identifies the man seen taken down as 28-year-old Octavius Johnson. According to the video’s YouTube description, “The two males were seeing why the vehicles were being towed,” as they apparently belonged to their family.
KETV reports Octavius was told to leave by officers, and in the video he can be seen doing just that; but police say he was argumentative and resisted arrest.
He recounted his version of the encounter to KPTM, stating, “He went around my neck, threw me on the ground, choked me out to the point where I couldn’t breathe or speak. The officer told me to stop resisting, punched me in the face and said ‘do you want to die today’.”
The man filming the incident close-up is reportedly Octavius’ brother Juaquez Johnson. In the video, he can be heard shouting, “That’s abuse!” and, “Get your knee off his neck!” Police later said they arrested him because they had warned him to stay off the street.
Police are next seen ludicrously chasing Juaquez into his home where his brother and aunt were. The mens’ brother Demetrius, who was inside the house when the incident took place, was also arrested after he reportedly attempted to block police from reaching Juaquez. Their aunt Sharon Johnson says police knocked her out of her wheelchair, after which she needed to be hospitalized.
In total, 12 police cars can be counted at the scene, sirens ablazing. According to the family, police also towed four cars that day, one just for being parked in the wrong direction.
In response to outrage over the video, which at the time of writing has been viewed over 219 thousand times, an internal investigation has been launched.
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, at a press conference Saturday, stated, “I will get to the bottom of this… I will discover what transpired at 33rd and Seward in its entirety and I will address it properly. I expect professional behavior and accountability from all my officers at all times.”
Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray said he was “appalled” at what the video showed, and stated the man seen pursued into his own home by police officers is the most upsetting part of the video. “I have serious concerns, not only about the police officer that flipped the individual and was punching him in the face several times, but I have serious concerns about officers who are chasing citizens off the street who are just simply doing what they were supposed to do.”
The family says they will file a complaint against the police department. Meanwhile, one officer involved in the incident has been placed on administrative leave and two others have been put on temporary reassignment.
While a thorough investigation could be lengthy, evidence needed to corroborate either the police version of events or the Johnsons’ shouldn’t be hard to obtain. In addition to the damning video, most officers are equipped with lapel microphones and some even carry lapel video cameras.
However, were it not for the watchful neighbor’s vigilant filming, we can expect this incident would have passed under the radar and gone unreported.