ROCKLIN, CA - YouTube video of a man being struck by a police baton at a New Year's Eve party has ignited a debate over the appropriate use of force.
Rocklin police say they used an appropriate level of force to arrest a man who refused to be handcuffed, but some witnesses said the force appeared to be excessive.
Rocklin police spokesman Lt. Lon Milka said between 800 and 1,000 people were at the party at Mercedes Benz of Rocklin when police were called to assist with a stuck elevator shortly after 11 p.m. Friday.
Milka said as the officers prepared to leave the party, they saw John Edward Banks, 41, shove his girlfriend. Milka said officers wanted to speak to Banks about the incident outside the dealership but he refused to leave and resisted attempts to forcibly remove him.
The video shows Banks on the floor of the dealership and at least partially in a water fountain as three officers try to handcuff him. Milka said Banks assumed a fetal-like position and would not allow officers access to his arms.
Milka said a Taser, which is not seen in the video, was used to try to subdue Banks but was ineffective.
One of the officers is then seen striking Banks multiple times with a baton. Milka defended the action, saying Banks was struck on the soft tissue of his upper arm to try to force him into a position to be handcuffed.
Milka said he had seen the YouTube video and supported the action of the officers. "I think our officers used force necessary to overcome his resistance and make the arrest," he said.
A woman who was at the party seated at a nearby table supported the police account.
"I get the whole thing about police brutality and I would be the first one to say that, but the guy was obviously drunk and out of control," Jessica Sommerdorf told News10. "Honestly, I'm sure it was appropriate. He was going all over the place," Sommerdorf added.
News10's Suzanne Phan spoke to Banks Monday afternoon and he insisted he did nothing to provoke the officers.
"I didn't resist arrest. They beat me badly. They took their time doing it. It was wrong," Banks said. Banks insisted both hands were behind his back the entire time and not under his torso as police claimed.
Valaree Belle said her boyfriend did not push her nor hurt her in any way. She described her reaction upon seeing the police subduing Banks.
"Oh my God, that's my boyfriend!" said Belle. "He had two cops on him. There was more. They'd stop. They'd come back. It was totally out of line. He was just laying there!"
Banks, who is African American, said he was one of the few blacks at the event. He and his girlfriend believe his race was a factor in the incident.
Banks' friend, Mike Regan, attempted to intervene to stop the officers.
"I could not morally stand by and watch them beat that man face-down in a fountain. It was the right thing for me to do," Regan said.
Regan would not comment further because he faces potential charges of interfering with officers.
Banks faces charges involving domestic violence and resisting arrest. His girlfriend faces charges of resisting arrest and battery on a police officer for allegedly jumping on an officer's back, which she denied doing.
Banks and his girlfriend plan to file their own complaint against the Rocklin Police Department.
By George Warren, firstname.lastname@example.org
Suzanne Phan contributed to this report. email@example.com Twitter: @suzannephan