Witnesses are questioning the use of force by Akron police officers during an arrest Sunday that went viral after a bystander posted a video of the incident online.

Patrick E. King, who neighbors say lives around the corner from where the incident occurred, was taken away by ambulance after an officer punched him at least 30 times in the back during an arrest involving at least 10 Akron police officers.

(Warning: video contains profanity.)

 

Police Maj. Jesse Leeser said the officer was justified in striking the man in the body while three other officers tried to subdue the man. Two officers who had stopped King while investigating drug activity reported that he gave false information about his age and identity.

Police department spokesman Capt. Dave Laughlin said officers observed King leaving a suspected "drug house."

When the female arresting officer placed a handcuff on King's wrist, an altercation ensued, both police and witnesses say. "He's now armed with at least one handcuff," Leeser said. "And he could use that pretty much like a knife. The edges can be sharp."

After taking King to the ground, two more officers arrive. One kneels on King, who is face down at the time, and delivers a barrage of 30 windwill punches, "all of which is taught to our officers," Leeser said of the strikes meant to loosen King's grip on the officers. Leeser said the violence was justified because the stakes are high when wrestling suspects. "It can be, absolutely. If the fight goes to the ground, the officers' weapons are accessible," he said.

King was arrested for an outstanding warrant for a parole violation on a burglary charge and booked in the county jail, Leeser said. Law enforcement added charges of tampering with evidence, resisting arrest, misrepresenting an identity, drug paraphernalia and drug abuse related to marijuana. The mayor's office said the police department will investigate the arrest, which is standard practice for use of force cases. Officers were wearing body cams.

Neighbors said they know the man only as Patrick. He appeared in the Goodyear Heights neighborhood near Newton Avenue about a year ago.

A resident of Para Avenue saw the man walking along the sidewalk toward the Jordan Market convenience store around 3:40 p.m. Sunday.

The neighbor said King had identified himself as a veteran who complains of no help from the government. On Sunday afternoon, he told the resident that he was headed to the store for a couple Mike’s Hard Lemonade drinks to enjoy while watching football.

Around that time, Scott Workman — who lives one street over on Vaniman Avenue — said a police cruiser pulled up to his house to ask if he or his family had heard gunshots or fireworks in the area. Workman said he hadn’t. The cruiser, followed by another, pulled away.

About 4 p.m., the resident of Para Avenue watched the man known as Patrick walking back from Newton Street toward Sprague Street with his usual backpack on. A police cruiser pulled up behind the man. A female and male officer exited the cruiser and began asking questions.

The resident heard the officers ask to search the man.

“He put his hands up and said, ‘Yeah, I don’t care,” said the witness, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation. At that point, the female officer handcuffed the man. The witness said he could not hear why.

The witness said the man refused to be handcuffed, and the male officer then "powerblasted him into the grass."

At this point, the Para Avenue resident started recording the incident on his cell phone. The police saw him recording.

As the two officers tried unsuccessfully to subdue the man by tasing him in the neck and back, backup arrived. Two male officers are seen in the video jumping on the man. With his back to the cellphone camera, one of the assisting officers clenched his right fist and then began to strike the man in the back at least 30 times.

On the video, another bystander can be heard yelling at the officers: "You cannot punch him. Y'all are not allowed to do that."

A female officer turns and responded, "Are you guys kidding me?"

More officers arrived and both the man’s hands were handcuffed. The witness posted his cellphone video to Facebook at 4:47 p.m., about a half hour after he stopped recording. The video was shared hundreds of times within hours. By 1 p.m. Monday, the video of the police officer’s use of force had been viewed 142,000 times.

After the witness stopped recording, he said officers emptied the man’s backpack, which reportedly contained text books, two Mike’s Hard Lemonades and paperwork that began to blow away. An officer used the alcohol containers as a paper weight.

An ambulance arrived about 10 minutes after the recording ended.

“It was so messed up. He had grass and dirt in his mouth. There was blood running from his mouth. When they pulled him up off the ground, they said, ‘He was eating grass.’ That’s crazy,” the witness said. “Who in their right mind is going to eat grass? I had just talked to the guy. I knew he wasn’t in a messed up state of mind.”

A cashier at the Jordan Market, who was off the day before, said Monday the man "never acted badly in the store. I don’t know why [the police] did anything like that.”

The cashier, like a neighbor who saw the video and said the officers should be disciplined for punching the man into submission or letting it happen, wished not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

The police report of the incident has not been released.

Reach Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.