EL Centro – On May 25, a follow-up statement regarding the disputed police tactics during the detention and subsequent arrest of Elizardo Saenz this past November was released in compliance with the requests of Black Lives Matter, Social Justice, and El Centro Police Chief Eddie Maudeno.
At an El Centro City Council Meeting in December, comments by the coordinator of Imperial Valley Black Lives Matter, Hilton Smith, mirrored statements by Chief Maudeno about public trust and good policing proposing that an unbiased investigation be conducted by an outside agency of any potential wrong doing of the officers involved in the Saenz arrest.
A private citizen captured footage of the last 50 seconds of the pursuit via cell phone. The video depicted footage of a man getting detained by officers utilizing baton strikes and canine tactics to subdue the subject went viral – with many speculating excessive police force.
The incident was reviewed independently by the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office Administrative Investigations Unit and the FBI. A press release by the El Centro Police Department stated that the officers use of force and actions taken during the arrest have been determined by ICSO and FBI not to be excessive.
“Investigators determined when our officers first made physical contact with Mr. Saenz the greatest level of force used consisted of hand grips and arm and leg control techniques,” stated Maudeno. “When officers were unable to control Mr. Saenz to the point they could handcuff him, a decision was made to deploy a police canine in an effort to obtain compliance and control. When the police canine first bit, Mr. Saenz was able to grab onto the dog and fight with the dog. This action taken by Mr. Saenz led to the escalation of force and officers found it necessary to increase the amount of force they used by striking Mr. Saenz with fists and baton strikes.”
During the December, El Centro City Council Meeting, a series of California Public Records Act Requests were formally submitted. One of the items of the CPRAR’s was availability and access of body-worn camera and dash-cam equipment and footage.
“The body camera footage showed each strike was made to a strategic and justified location on Mr. Saenz, consisting of arms and legs. At no time was Mr. Saenz struck on the head, neck or other vital areas with a baton, nor did Mr. Saenz suffer from any injuries other than the dog bite and bruising. The body camera video confirmed that immediately after officers handcuffed Mr. Saenz, any and all use of force by officers stopped,” per press release.
“It was only with the review and assistance of recordings obtained from cameras located in our police cars and a body worn camera video that investigators were able to obtain a more accurate and unbiased view of what actually occurred. The collective recordings captured the entire incident, from beginning to end, not just the last few moments of an arrest. It was these recordings that allowed investigators to see and understand the level and amount of resistance the officers faced at the time of the incident and why the decisions they made to apply force were necessary,” added Maudeno according to the press release.
Additional comments or statements regarding the verdict by ICSO and the FBI by those representing Mr. Saenz or his cause were not available by press time.