Police dash cam:WEST PALM BEACH,Video released August 11/08:One city police officer resigned and two more were placed on administrative leave after a dashboard camera captured images of them punching and kicking a handcuffed man in the face.
On May 26/08, Officer Louis Schwartz had pulled a car over outside a CVS pharmacy at 6800 South Dixie Highway when a pharmacy clerk told him a man in a black ski mask looked like he was about to rob the store.
As Schwartz walked in, the man, later identified as Pablo Gilberto Valenzuela, 42, of West Palm Beach, ran out through an emergency exit, turning to spray Schwartz with pepper spray as the officer gave chase, according to police reports.
A video recording captured what happened next:
Schwartz drew his gun and, ordering Valenzuela to the ground, approached as Officer Kurt Graham, who had heard Schwartz's calls for help over the radio, closed in on the prone man. Graham put a knee into Valenzuela's back and handcuffed him.
The video then showed Graham punch and kick Valenzuela in the face. Schwartz approached and also kicked Valenzuela in the face.
Later, as Officer Jason Zangara hoisted a bloodied Valenzuela to his feet, the video showed Valenzuela lurching away from Zangara's grasp. Zangara whirled on the handcuffed man and punched him several times in the face, until the man collapsed on the pavement, the video showed.
Officers hauled him up again and led him out of the frame.
Valenzuela was held at the Palm Beach County Jail on charges of robbery, assault and battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest.
In reports filed after the incident, Graham and Schwartz wrote that they kicked Valenzuela in the face because the handcuffed man was trying to bite Graham's leg.
"As I was crouching over Valenzuela he began to bite at my lower right leg," Graham wrote. "I felt his teeth graze up against my lower leg (through my pant leg). I immediately punched Valenzuela in the head in an attempt to stop his biting, at the same instance Officer Schwartz saw that Valenzuela was attempting to bite me, he kicked the subject in an attempt to stop him from biting me. As I arose to my feet I could still see Valenzuela attempting to bite me, this time I kicked him in the head."
Zangara wrote that he punched Valenzuela after Valenzuela tried to spit on him.
"I instinctively struck him in the face with my right fist to prevent him from spitting on me again as he was full of blood," Zangara wrote.
In the midst of an internal affairs investigation into the incident, Graham, whom a city spokesman described as a "rookie officer" still on probation, resigned on July 22.
Schwartz and Zangara - whose personnel files are dotted with suspensions and written reprimands - remain on administrative leave this afternoon while West Palm Beach Police Chief Delsa Bush decides their fate, said Chase Scott, city spokesman. It is unclear from the records if they have been on leave since the incident.
In an interview with internal affairs investigators, Valenzuela said the officers broke his jaw and gave him two black eyes and a gash that required four stitches. He said a fight with his wife during Memorial Day weekend triggered a stress disorder that preceded the incident on May 26.
Valenzuela, who said he was trades crew chief for Palm Beach County Facilities Management, said he had no memory of the confrontation or of the events that led up to it
Tags: 2 officers face discipline, caught on tape beating suspect
Location: West Palm Beach, Florida, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved, featured
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