There’s a teenaged pot smoker in San Antonio, Texas who's luckier than he might imagine. Put into a non-sanctioned choke hold during his arrest by a local police officer, he’s still alive today to tell his story. Many other police brutality incidents around the U.S. result in serious injury or even death.
San Antonio Park Police Officer Michael Ramirez allegedly saw the unnamed 16-year-old smoking a joint at 500 W. Market St. on May 4. Claiming the suspect initially tried to run, Ramirez placed him in a choke hold for over two minutes, caught on ideo video by an unidentified Facebook user, who posted it.
Sounds of the teen violently retching and gasping for breath can clearly be heard in the disturbing video. The suspect appears to not be resisting whatsoever in the first two-plus minutes of the recording, but then begins to panic and thrashesightly, at which point Ramirez lifts him off the ground and slams his head into the wall of the building on the street where this happened. Ramirez then wrestles him the ground as three bike cops help out. One of the cops kneels squarely on the teen's face as blood splatters on the sidewalk.
While an investigation is ongoing, the teen has been charged with resisting arrest and evading arrest, both Class A misdemeanors; assault of a public servant, a third degree felony; and possession of less than two ounces of marijuana (he was found with 1.9 grams of pot on him), a Class B misdemeanor. According to the police report, the teen was treated for his injuries, a hurt knee (and assumedly his bloodied face) at Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, given a prescription for pain medication and crutches, and told not to report for work for at least three days.
The use of a choke hold, never part of official police procedure in San Antonio, has been seriously frowned upon after another victim of a police choking, 44-year-old Eli Montesinos Delgado, was killed by a cop during an arrest in 1997. The local Bexar County's chief medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. Police in San Antonio are not taught to use choke holds, then Police Chief Al Phillipus noted at the time. "But we feel that, in situations where an officer may be fighting for his life, we have to leave that option open to him at his own discretion," he added. Though the stomach-turning video of the San Antonio teen’s arrest begins after he's already being choked, it does not ever appear that he was either violent or threatening the officer's life.
“The officer resorted to dangerously excessive force in a situation that did not involve serious danger to himself,” Krause Yang, legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, says about Ramirez, who has not been suspended or reaasigned. “In fact, it appears that the 16-year-old was the one who acted in a relatively calm manner while Ramirez unnecessarily escalated the situation into a scary one. Choking a person for over a minute would cause anyone to panic.”
Here are some other recent incidents of police brutality:
• In Lansing, Michigan, a cop pushes a wheelchair-bound man over onto the sidewalk, then places him under arrest after his foot was merely rolled over.
• In Tuscon, Arizona, a cop shoves an unsuspecting woman to the ground.
• In Phoenix, a cop tackles an ASU professor for jaywalking and not handing over her ID.
• In Los Angeles, a California Highway Patrol cop beats a grandmother on the shoulder of a highway.
• In Tampa, a SWAT raid leaves an alleged marijuana dealer dead. Police find less than a gram in the house.
• In Westbury, New York, a cop assaults a 20-year-old man for no apparent reason.
It’s abundantly clear that cops are out of control. When did police become overlords with only the most meager threats of a trial resulting from their blood-curdling violence? Where is the oversight and accountability? Police departments rally behind cowboy cops, and time and again little or nothing is done to rein them in or mete out genuine justice. This cannot be allowed to continue.