Use of force in question following March arrest in Belen | KOB 4

Use of force in question following March arrest in Belen

Brittany Costello
October 06, 2019 10:47 PM

BELEN, N.M.— A Belen police officer was caught on camera roughing up a suspect in handcuffs.

The incident happened in Belen back in March. The officer claims the suspect was out of control.

The interaction between suspect Francisco Santa Cruz and a Belen police officer landed the suspect in the hospital.

It seems like an average arrest until the two get into the holding cell. Surveillance video from a Belen holding cell shows a struggle then Santa Cruz forced on his stomach. His face hits the ground and bleeds.

“I have concerns,” said Belen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez. “What I see in the video is something that as a Chief of Police I do not condone and that I do not tolerate.”

According to documents, police were called out for a disturbance back in March. A police officer was approaching the intersection of 5th and Garcia when they came across Francisco Santa Cruz. Documents said the man was known to officers.

Video showed the officer approaching Santa Cruz, and asking him why he was causing problems. There’s back and forth, and according to documents the officer chose to put him in cuffs because he was “not cooperating.”

The officer told another responding officer that “he just started arguing with me saying I have no reason to stop him. I wasn't going to deal with it today,” the officer said.

All that happened before the officer talked to the person who called in. Santa Cruz was cuffed in the back seat when the officer drove to meet the victim who alleged Santa Cruz threatened him. After speaking with the victim, the officer told Santa Cruz that he was being charged with assault.

The entire way to the station both the suspect and officer go back and forth. According to documents, Santa Cruz had verbally threatened the officer.

Words continue back into the station. According to the report the officer wrote “I gained control of Francisco's arm and placed him into a prone stabilization per my defensive tactics training in order to not allow him to follow through with his threats of battering me with handcuffs still on.”

Though Santa Cruz was taken to the hospital, the officer wrote that “the injury that Francisco sustained appeared to be superficial and nothing of serious nature.”

“I’ll tell you right now that we have very good officers at the Belen Police Department that do their jobs,” said Chief Victor Rodriguez. “The incident in question is not a proper application of use-of-force."

Rodriguez said they conducted an internal investigation as a result of the video. Rodriguez recommended the officer be terminated, but the City Manager opted for a short suspension.

The officer involved is still on duty with the Belen police department. The incident has been referred to the Law Enforcement Academy Board and the Department of Justice.

Chief Rodriguez said they are still waiting for the findings from those entities.


Brittany Costello

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