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(UPDATE) Video Emerges Showing Long Beach Police Beating a Pinned Man With a Baton, Evoking Painful Memories of Rodney King

9:23 AM PST on February 20, 2020

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap] video has surfaced of a police officer in Long Beach pinning down an unarmed man while another police officer violently attacks the unarmed man’s lower body section with his baton while he is down.  

No, this is not the infamous 1991 Rodney King video that showed LAPD officers brutally kicking and bludgeoning King. This video surfaced two days ago, depicting two Long Beach police officers beating 24-year-old Eugene Martindale.

During the 15 second video released on Facebook by "The Daily Diddi," one officer is seen holding down Martindale to the ground with his body while another officer brandishes a baton and repeatedly strikes Martindale before the video cuts on the 10th swing. Martindale is seen flailing his legs as he’s hit repeatedly. 

In a statement, the Long Beach Police Department declined to identify the officers involved in the altercation and said that the “video appears to depict only a small portion of the incident.”

According to the Long Beach Police Department, on February 15, 2020, officers responded to the area of 4th Street and Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach at around 3:15 PM to assist a parking enforcement officer with a subject, later identified as Martindale. Earlier, Martindale allegedly tried to carjack the parking enforcement officer’s vehicle.

Jennifer De Prez, a public information officer with the Long Beach Police Department, said that Martindale had also reportedly tried to steal other cars in the area prior to the incident.

According to law enforcement, Martindale resisted arrest and began to “thrash his body” when the officers tried to take him into custody. De Prez told L.A. Taco that the officer “Utilized baton strikes to gain [Martindale’s] compliance.”

Despite organizations like Black Lives Matter and other advocates speaking out against police use of force for years, these incidents don’t spark the same sort of public response that the Rodney King beating did almost 30 years ago. 

Martindale is currently being held without bond on charges of attempted carjacking, resisting arrest, and violating parole.

Newly elected Long Beach Councilwoman Mary Zendejas, the first Latina wheelchair user to be elected to office in the nation, declined to comment on the video. The incident happened on the southern edge of the councilwoman’s district and just one mile away from her office.

Raymond Morquecho, the Zendejas’ Chief of Staff, referred L.A. Taco to the media relations department of the Long Beach Police Department when asked if the Councilwoman was concerned about the video. “We’re going to trust the LBPD to respond the way they have been. We know that the LBPD has an internal structure that reviews all acts of force and we’re going to let that play out,” Morquecho told L.A. Taco that they would respond further when more information became available.

This incident shares a striking resemblance to the Rodney King beating.

In the case of King, the Los Angeles Police Department successfully argued that he was resisting arrest and that he threatened the officers when he allegedly approached them. Despite video footage that showed King being beaten over 50 times causing over 10 fractures and other injuries—a local jury acquitted 3 out of 4 officers on all charges.

An anonymous expert witness for the defense in the Rodney King case responded to the video of Martindale by telling L.A. Taco, “Do not assume there is no threat level if a suspect is not armed. Too little is known about this case, it will all come out in time.”

History repeats itself

In 2013, a 4 1/2 minute video emerged of multiple Long Beach police officers beating and tasering Porfirio Santos-Lopez. Like in the case of King and Martindale, Santos-Lopez was accused of resisting arrest and threatening the officers. That incident resulted in a subsequent lawsuit with the city of Long Beach that was settled in 2016.

While the Rodney King video showed the world what Blacks and POC were dealing with on a daily basis in Los Angeles, the public shock and subsequent criminal case did little to change policy. Today, everybody has a camera on the ready and police violence is still rampant, especially in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Police Department regularly leads the country in officer-involved shootings, in 2018 the department fired their weapons at people over 33 times. When you expand those figures to L.A. County, the numbers grow even higher. 

This is at least the second use of force incident associated with the Long Beach Police Department in just the last week. Two days after the Martindale incident, on February 17, 2020, a man was fatally shot by Long Beach police, near the same area.

According to the Long Beach Police Department, there were over 230 non-lethal instances of use of force last year and over 12 lethal use of force incidents in the last three years.

After the Rodney King verdict, the city broke out into riots that lasted three days, resulting in over 50 deaths, thousands of arrests and over 1 billion dollars in property damage. To this day, the ripple effects of the riots are still impacting the relationships between different races in L.A.

Despite organizations like Black Lives Matter and other advocates speaking out against police use of force for years, these incidents don’t spark the same sort of public response that the Rodney King beating did almost 30 years ago. 

On average the LAPD was involved in over one critical incident, which can range from an injury to loss of life, every two weeks in 2019. And countywide between the years 2000-2017 according to KPCC, law enforcement shot at or killed over 1,500 people, or one person every 5th day.

Update as of February 27, 2020:

According to the Long Beach Post, Martindale pleaded no contest to two felony counts of resisting arrest on Thursday, February 27, 2020. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped two more charges of false imprisonment and interfering with a business. According to Martindale's parents, he suffers from mental illness. Martindale's father told the Long Beach Post that his son was having a mental health crisis on February 15, 2020 and was trying to seek help from drivers including the parking enforcement officer who misinterpreted Martindale's actions. He was sentenced to one year in jail and three years of probation.

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