An Arizona police department has come under renewed scrutiny after the release of video appearing to show its officers beating a suspect and mocking him as he lay covered in blood on the floor of a hospital.
Mesa Police Department officers initially encountered suspect Jose Luis Conde Jan. 28, when they pulled over a driver for a traffic stop, authorities said.
Conde, 23, was a passenger in the car, and the officers asked him to exit the vehicle after perceiving his behavior as suspicious and learning of his previous run-ins with the law, including firearm and drug violations, according to a police report.
While patting him down, one of the officers felt "small bulges" in Conde's sock, which he believed to be drugs, police said. Conde tensed up and turned to face the officer, leading police to believe "an imminent attack was going to occur," according to the report.
The officer took Conde to the ground, and a struggle ensued. Conde "attempted to fight off the officer through swinging his fists and attempted to hit the officer," the report stated.
The suspect also allegedly pushed, shoved the officers and refused to comply with their orders to stop. Two officers sustained injuries from the scuffle, including scrapes to their hands, elbows and knees, according to the report.
But Conde's attorney, Bret Royle, said any injuries the officers sustained were a result of their beating his client. Body camera video from one of the officers -- which Royle recently obtained from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and released to the media this week -- appears to show an officer repeatedly punching Conde, while others handcuffed the man.
During a news conference Thursday in Mesa, Royle said the police report tells a different story from what's seen on video. The attorney said his client has no record of weapons charges and doesn't show any lack of cooperation in the video. The officers, however, use "excessive force," Royle said.
"That's my biggest concern -- what parts of these police reports are accurate," Royle told reporters.
The Mesa Police Department said it was "researching the incident." A spokesman said the department responded to a news inquiry about the alleged assault.
"The released article depicts a portion of the body camera footage (not released by MPD) available and we will be preparing the full report and body camera footage to be released soon," said Det. Nik Rasheta of the Mesa Police Department.
Before obtaining the video, which Royle said "took me some time to get," the attorney rejected an initial plea deal on behalf of Conde that would have included prison time.
"We took a leap of faith and moved beyond, and I got that video and it showed exactly what I thought it would show," Royle told reporters. "I want to see charges dropped."
Conde, flanked by his attorney and mother at the news conference, read a prepared statement in which he described his account of what happened that night in January.
"I was the victim of a brutal assault at the hands of Mesa police officers," Conde said. "I was searched, I was thrown to the ground, I was heaved into a wall, I was Tased, I was punched over and over by multiple cops, I was gauged in the eye and I was hit in the head with a massive police flashlight. After all of this, they laughed at me as I laid in a pool of my own blood, barely conscious. And this is no laughing matter. In the end, I had to have my ears sewn back on, I had to have my head stapled back together and I’m left to defend myself in court.
"My hope is that my case can bring meaningful change within the Mesa police department and justice," he added.
The new video comes just days after the Mesa Police Department announced there are three independent investigations into its use-of-force policies, stemming from two separate incidents that occurred in May. Seven of the department's officers have since been placed on administrative leave, according to ABC affiliate KNXV in Phoenix.
"There are several officers within the Mesa Police Department that have demonstrated over the last couple of weeks their willingness to put themselves above the law, rather than to protect and serve," Royle told reporters Thursday. "It's concerning."
According to the police report, the officers were ultimately able to detain Conde in handcuffs and arrest him. But even while in handcuffs, the suspect "continued to struggle with officers that were attempting to search him," the police report said.
Three small, tied-off, plastic bags were found in Conde's sock. The substance in one of the bags field-tested positive for cocaine, police said.
Conde was subsequently taken to a nearby hospital, where his restraints were removed but he remained in custody while receiving treatment for his injuries. He attempted to flee after medical staff cleared him, according to the police report.
Conde ran out of his hospital room, past two awaiting officers, and down the hallway before he was caught, authorities said. He "pushed back and struggled with the officers to free himself" before he was placed back in handcuffs, according to the police report.
That's when one officer is seen in the body camera video appearing to mock Conde.
"Bless his little heart," the officer said in response to a nurse who explained why the suspect's face was bleeding.
"Aww," the officer added, before telling Conde to "man up" as he lay on the floor, surrounded by a pool of blood.
Conde was booked in Mesa City Jail on charges including resisting arrest, aggravated assault on police, possession of a narcotic drug, possession of a narcotic drug for sale and attempting to escape from custody, according to the police report.
Conde, who lives in Mesa and works in landscaping, is not seeking financial compensation but rather exoneration from the charges, according to his lawyer, who said he has known the Conde family "for years."
"This is not a money grab," Royle told reporters Thursday. "My intention is to bring light on the behavior of these officers and negotiate with the county attorney office about dismissing the charges."