The cellphone video above that we showed you on Monday via reporter Chaédria LaBouvier has now prompted a wave of media coverage and an incident review by the SFPD and SFFD. Both departments responded to the scene after there were reports of a possibly mentally ill man waving "sticks" around and walking into the middle of Market Street. (The sticks may have been his crutches, and police say he refused to put them down.) And while the police appear to use significant force in restraining the 42-year-old man, who is an amputee, in the process exposing his bare buttocks, the man does also appear to be putting up significant resistance. As police spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan tells CBS 5, "You can see in the video that he does attempt to bite the officers and kick officers, both of which are crimes."
Also, she adds, a couple of the responding officers were familiar with the man from the neighborhood, and he had an outstanding warrant for felony aggravated assault.
Still, she says, in this situation, police chose not to arrest him for a crime and instead involuntarily commit him for a mental health evaluation, which is why he's seen being strapped to a gurney at the end of the 11-minute video.
Though police say the man was in an "altered mental state" and was threatening, you can hear him say in the video, of the sticks that the police confiscate, “These are my crutches. I use these to walk."
The video was sent to the Office of Citizen Complaints, and Police Chief Greg Suhr tells Reuters, they will "look into this situation thoroughly and determine if there were any violations of department policy."
While shooting the video LaBouvier said she was appalled at the treatment of this man, and baffled by how many officers it required given he was disabled. As the New York Times notes today, her video has racked up many views on YouTube now over 300,000.
Oakland attorney John Burris who has experience prosecuting use-of-force cases against the police tells the Chronicle that context is key here, and while people might be outraged by the fact that the guy only has one leg, "If you believe the police officers’ scenario, they have justification for the use of force that they did.” He adds, “If he was running around the street and creating a danger to himself and others, they were justified.”