Several punches ‘could have been avoided’ according to Fresno police auditor’s report on excessive force claim

Local News

FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) — According to a report released by the city of Fresno’s independent police auditor on Thursday, several punches “could have been avoided” during an arrest that took place in 2019.

The auditor had withheld the report on the case from his quarterly report, an admission that prompted calls from the public for his resignation.

Police auditor John Gliatta said despite finishing up a report on a January 2019 incident — he decided to hold off on releasing it. Police body cam footage of the incident showed officer Christopher Martinez repeatedly hit 17-year-old London Wallace.

“I internally decided not to put it out. The community had some very fragile emotions going on and I didn’t think it would help matters by putting this out because I contradict what the [Fresno Police Department] came up with.”

The city released the report Thursday after controversy surrounded the decision to withhold the it.

The report says, “Because of local media coverage, this matter received significant attention locally and nationally. In response to the amount of attention it received it was determined the OIR’s review of the matter should be included in the quarterly report once the investigation was completed by the FPD IA.”

According to the report, the initial investigation said the allegation of excessive use of force was unfounded, but after Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall reviewed the incident, the finding was amended.

The report says: “Initially the IA investigation determined this allegation against O1 was unfounded. However after a thorough review by Chief Hall the finding was amended to sustained. In view of the amended finding of sustained this allegation was not reviewed by this office.”

According to the report, fist strikes are permitted per FPD Roll Call Training Bulletin, 09-10: “In isolated situations, circumstances may justify the use of fist strikes to a suspect’s head; however, they are discouraged due to the associated risk of injury to both the officer and suspect. All force will be evaluated in light of what was objectively reasonable to bring the individual situation under control in accordance with Department policy and both Federal and State legal standards.”

Therefore, in response to the resistance by the CP, the first three punches by O1 were determined to be within policy. It needs to be pointed out only the first punch actually made contact with the CP’s face/chin. This portion of the allegation warranted a finding of unfounded.

As O1 was delivering the third punch the CP began to cover up his head and remained in a bent over position. It has been documented by several studies a person is unable to stop an action once they physically start the movement. Since O1 already began the third punch it would not have been possible for him to stop the movement once the CP covered his head. However, 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. The punches were delivered over a two to three second period allowing enough time for O1 to cease the punching action.

SUPPLEMENTAL REPORT FOR THE SECOND QUARTER OF 2020

Hall released a statement after the report was released.

As Chief of Police of the Fresno Police Department, I am personally committed to the Department conducting thorough investigations and critical evaluations of all use of force incidents, including the incident involving London Wallace. The supplemental report from the Office of Independent Review (OIR) is an independent review of the London Wallace incident. I give serious consideration to the OIR findings and recommendations. From this information, I determine the need for Department policy changes, as well as, additional training needs for officers. While state law prohibits me from disclosing personnel decisions involving discipline or corrective action arising from use of force incidents, I can assure the community, appropriate action has been taken to address the level of force applied in the incident involving London Wallace. This investigation was also reviewed by the FBI and the Department of Justice and both agencies agreed with the investigation conducted by the Internal Affairs Bureau and the Department’s conclusions.

Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall

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