A recently released video showed a San Joaquin County Jail, California, correctional officer striking a handcuffed detainee across the head as he sat on the floor, handcuffed. Even though the incident occurred in August, the officer was only charged Tuesday with misdemeanor assault.
The footage, made public by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, showed officer Matthew Mettler entering the pre-booking area of the jail and hitting the arrestee, sitting on the floor with his legs and hands cuffed, on the side of his head with so much force that he falls over.
The unidentified man, shown in the 35-second soundless clip, was wearing a spit hood for allegedly spitting at officers when they arrested him for public intoxication. He was detained in August 2017 after he allegedly passed out drunk in front of a local business.
“I thought they took him, spoke to him, then they let him go,” Francisco Vasquez, who works at Fit Nutrition in Manteca, where the man passed out, said. “He was fully knocked out when my dad came.”
“I kicked [sic] his foot to move him a little bit. The guy was not responding,” said Jose Guzman, who owns Fit Nutrition.
Guzman said he called 911 and then reportedly recorded the encounter between police and the intoxicated man on his phone.
“He started pushing the police officers,” Guzman stated.
Even though the arrestee was being physically combative toward the officers, the district attorney said correctional officer Mettler’s behavior was unacceptable and stated people who abuse their power and position will be tried and punished as per the law.
Sheriff Steve Moore called Mettler’s behavior inexplicable, while adding the detainee did not pose a threat. He agreed to the district attorney’s decision and said Mettler was on leave ever since the assault was reported.
In a written statement Sheriff Moore said: “As sheriff, I don’t condone the actions as portrayed on this video by our jail staff. It is inconsistent with the professionalism of San Joaquin County Correctional Officers, and of this department. The action taken by the DA’s office is appropriate and we support their position.”
Moore also praised the unidentified Manteca police officer, who witnessed the assault inside the pre-booking area and reported it. However, it is unclear when exactly the authorities were informed of the incident. Mettler is expected to appear in court March 26.