Teenager Who Was Punched Repeatedly by Fresno Officer Sues Police Dept.

A teenager who was repeatedly punched by a police officer in Fresno, Calif., during what police reports called a “gang related” operation that was recorded on body cameras has sued the Fresno Police Department, claiming excessive force.

The 17-year-old, London Wallace, was inside an apartment building on Jan. 23 at a relative’s birthday party when a group of officers conducting a probation search arrived, according to the lawsuit, filed last month in Superior Court of California.

Nolan Kane, Mr. Wallace’s lawyer, said in an interview on Thursday that he had released some of the footage from the officers’ body cameras this week at the request of local news outlets. The footage, published on Wednesday, starts with two officers holding Mr. Wallace’s arms bent over his head and pinning his hands behind his neck, while one of them pats him down.

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London Wallace, 17, was punched repeatedly by a Fresno police officer during what law enforcement officials called a “gang related” operation in January. Mr. Wallace is now suing the police over the episode.CreditCreditFresno Police Department

He had been removed from the apartment, where Mr. Kane said Mr. Wallace had been playing video games with a younger relative, and was searched without a warrant, the lawsuit alleges.

The two officers release him and gesture for him to sit on the floor on the landing outside of the apartment, the footage shows. As Mr. Wallace turns, another officer steps forward and grabs him, pushing him to the wall and throwing several punches.

“Put your hands behind your back,” someone can be heard shouting repeatedly.

Mr. Wallace is pushed to the ground and two officers pile on top of him to handcuff him, the footage shows. The officers make him sit up and lean against the railing, and there is blood on Mr. Wallace’s face. The lawsuit said his nose was broken and he had other injuries.

Mr. Wallace, who the lawsuit said had been unarmed and had possessed no illegal substances, was arrested on charges of resisting arrest, which were later dropped, Mr. Kane said. He is also seeking damages for negligence and emotional distress, the suit said.

Video footage from the body cameras is being used in an internal investigation of Officer Martinez, who has been placed on modified duty, the police chief, Jerry Dyer, said on Wednesday in a news conference.

“The video that I have reviewed certainly raises concerns,” the chief said.

Calls to the department and to the city of Fresno, both named as defendants in the lawsuit, were not returned on Thursday. The lawsuit also names as defendants Officer Christopher Martinez and “Does 1-25.”

In a report Officer Martinez wrote on the event, which he described as “gang related,” he said that he had “grabbed” Mr. Wallace because it looked like he was not listening to orders to sit down. He wrote that Mr. Wallace took a “fighting stance,” and he feared the teenager was going to push officers over the railing.

“I punched Wallace approximately three times in the face in order to get him off me and to back him up,” Officer Martinez wrote. He said Mr. Wallace continued to resist, so he “struck” him “approximately two more times” when he was on the ground.

Another officer, R. Loza, wrote in his report that he had used his “forearm to strike” Mr. Wallace twice while trying to get control during the struggle.

Chief Dyer said at the news conference that further “appropriate action” could be taken depending on the results of the investigation, which will be based on interviews and more scrutiny of the videos.

“We do know that a struggle ensued,” Chief Dyer said. “We also know that the officer swung his fist at the individual several times.”

It was “difficult” to see how many blows made contact, he said. “But we do know that he was struck at least once with one of those blows,” he said, referring to Mr. Wallace.

The case and the release of the footage have heightened tensions in Fresno, a city of about half a million people in central California. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants’ actions were “consistent” with the department’s “culture of deliberate indifference to the use of excessive force” in encounters with civilians.

Chief Dyer said he was aware that many people had concerns about what they had seen in the video, “and understandably so.”

“I am asking that people reserve final judgment until the entire investigation is complete,” he said.

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