The San Diego Police Department Friday released video footage from uniform-worn cameras worn by two officers who tackled and repeatedly punched a homeless Black man last week while taking him into custody on a La Jolla thoroughfare.
The May 12 arrest of 34-year-old Jesse Evans — images of which were videotaped by a bystander and posted on social media — prompted public outrage along with assurances from police officials of an internal review into the SDPD patrolmen’s actions.
The events that led to the scuffle, which resulted in no serious injuries, began shortly before 4 p.m. May 12, when the officers — whose names have not been released — saw Evans standing on a sidewalk next to a steep, thickly landscaped bank while they were driving in their cruiser through the upscale coastal community north of Pacific Beach.
Concluding that Evans was urinating, the patrolmen pulled over, got out and walked over to where he was standing.
“You can’t urinate in public, my man. … People have to pass by here,” one of the officers can be heard saying in the body-worn-camera recording. “That’s not cool, man.”
In response, Evans can be heard shouting, “Do you want me to p— my pants? What in the f— is wrong with you?”
“Relax,” the patrolman replies as Evans turns and strides away. “Relax, boss.”
At that point, the officers proceed to discuss whether to follow Evans, who continues walking away, yelling hostile things back at them, including “Stay the f— out of my life!”
The lawmen then get back in their vehicle and drive to where Evans is crossing the street in a crosswalk in the 4100 block of Torrey Pines Road. Seeing them, he again shouts at them to leave him alone. At that point, the officers grab him and pull him to the pavement.
The witness’ cellphone video shows most of the ensuing struggle, during which one of patrolmen hit Evans in the face twice, and the other punches his leg several times.
After being struck, Evans pulled a radio off one of the officers’ belts and hurled it onto the roadway, then appeared to hit one of them back, landing a blow to his face. More officers pulled up in cruisers and joined in the fracas before the video came to an end.
After the personnel got Evans into custody, he was taken to a hospital for an evaluation, then booked into county jail on suspicion of resisting arrest and battery on a police officer.
The in-house departmental investigation began later in the day, police said.
“The (SDPD) Internal Affairs Unit is currently investigating the incident and reviewing (the involved officers’) body-worn-camera … video,” according to an SDPD statement.
In a letter to the Police Chief David Nisleit, Francine Maxwell, president of the San Diego branch of the NAACP, stated that officials with her agency wanted “to know that this incident of violence will be properly investigated, and be assured that these officers will not be exonerated for this assault on an unarmed Black man.”
“The SDPD has a de-escalation policy that requires you to use time and space to defuse a situation, rather than immediately move to force,” she wrote. “It seems to us that there was ample space to de-escalate. Why didn’t they? We want to know if this is how the SDPD envisions de-escalation. Did it really require eight police officers to subdue this barefoot homeless man?”
Two days after his arrest, Evans joined local civil rights leader Shane Harris and a group of supporters at a news conference near where he was taken into custody and made brief comments about the controversy.
Evans denied the officers’ contention that they caught him publicly urinating, though he admitted that he was preparing to when they approached.
While saying he forgave the officers for what happened, Evans, who had a bandage under his left eye, spoke of a need for better relations between police and the homeless population.
“I hope I’m the last victim of such nonsense,” he said. “I hope that we can hire reasonable individuals to look out for us and protect and serve our greater good in a better way, represent us in a better way as a community, as a nation.”
This week, Harris, president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, announced that his organization had hired an attorney to represent Evans in the case.
A GoFundMe account has been launched to raise money for an emergency hotel stay and legal fees for Evans, with about $9,603 pledged as of 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Police officials have provided no timeline for completion of their internal investigation into the arrest.
– City News Service contributed to this article
Updated 9:55 p.m. May 21, 2021