A newly released report written by a Fresno police auditor determines what we already knew when body camera video of a brutal police beating of a teenager surfaced last year – that police used excessive force when they repeatedly punched a teenager who was not posing a threat to officers.
However, the auditor, John Gliatta, admitted to a subcommittee he intentionally delayed the release of an investigation for more than four months over concerns of how the community would react,
Gliatta was forced to release his report last week even though the incident took place more than a year-and-a-half ago.
The incident took place on January 23, 2019 after Fresno’s gang task force dubbed MAGEC (Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium) conducted a surprise probation search at a birthday party in an apartment complex.
The report states that Fresno police officer Christopher Martinez used excessive force when he launched a volley of punches on then-17-year-old London Wallace, claiming he took a “fighting stance” against officers.
Claiming a gang meeting was taking place with firearms present, task force officers conducted a raid in which they detained and pat-searched all occupants one-by-one who were in the targeted apartment.
As the operation was unfolding, Wallace, then 17 years old with no gang affiliation or criminal record, can be seen looking for a place to sit after he was patted down when Martinez grabs him and begins to punch him.
Wallace was taken to the ground with a bloodied face and arrested for resisting arrest, a chage that was later dropped.
According to former Police Chief Dyer, an internal affairs investigation concluded no misconduct occurred even though he also admitted investigators failed to view the body camera video before reaching their conclusion.
The incident caused uproar prompting a civil lawsuit against officers and the initiation of a formal investigation by Fresno’s “independent” police auditor.
“I internally decided not to put it out because I knew the city, the community had some very fragile emotions going on. And I didn’t think it would help matters by putting this up because I contradict what the PD came up with,” Gliatta said to a subcommittee on September. 16. His justification for the delayed released caused outcry from several committee members and the report was released this month
While Gliatta claims his reason for the delay was due to it contradicting Fresno’s internal affairs investigation, it’s also likely it was due to Gliatta’s determination that Martinez’s first three punches were justified despite video evidence contradicting the claim that Wallace had taken a fighting stance.
Gliatta states in his report: “It is my opinion punches four through seven could have been avoided since the CP was now bent over with his hand covering his head in an attempt to avoid the punches and was no longer being a threat.”
This is not the first lawsuit Martinez has faced for his use of force on the job. A lawsuit was filed against Martinez and other officers following the May 10, 2017 police killing of Joseph Perez who died in police custody in a confrontation that took place after he was placed in handcuffs.
As there are renewed calls for charges to be brought against Martinez as well as Gliatta’s resignation, Todd Frazier, president of the Fresno Police Officers Association,“ released a statement this week claiming Maritinez was justified in initiating force against Wallace.
“The involved officer felt there was non-compliance by Mr. Wallace and he felt he had to immediately act to avoid this already problematic situation from getting out of control. “ writes Frazier. “This demonization must stop.”
Read the auditor’s report here.