Two police officers from Elkhart, Indiana will face criminal charges after a released video showed them punching a handcuffed man in the face more than 10 times.
The two officers, Cory Newland and Joshua Titus, will be charged with misdemeanor counts of battery 11 months after the incident took place in large part because the South Bend Tribune in collaboration with ProPublica requested the video be made public.
Before the video was released, the two officers were disciplined for the incident, but were never suspended or terminated. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave while the case is pending.
The video was recorded in the police station’s detention area on January 12, after 28 year-old Mario Guerrero Ledesma was arrested for domestic battery and Ledesma handcuffed sitting in a chair with Newland and Titus nearby. At one point Ledesma prepares to spit and the officer warns him not to. When he does spit the two officers immediately tackle him, causing Ledesma’s head to strike the concrete floor. They proceed to punch him in the face repeatedly while verbally abusing him, calling Ledesma a “piece of shit” and other expletives.
Two other officers are seen walking by casually as the officers beat down on Ledesma. As the beating ends, an officer says, “stop.”
The @SBTribune obtained this video from the Elkhart Police Department yesterday. It shows two officers punching a handcuffed man more than ten times. https://t.co/PU0nAe3SJr pic.twitter.com/S1BapFxelH
— ProPublica (@ProPublica) November 3, 2018
The South Bend Tribune requested the video from the Elkhart police department after a reporter noticed discrepancies between what Police Chief Ed Windbigler told the Police Merit Commission and what was written in personnel records.
Windbigler told the Police Merit Commission that the officers simply used “a little more force than needed” and “just went a little overboard when they took him to the ground.” But Windbigler said nothing of the two officers punching the handcuffed man in the face.
In a letter of reprimand to one of the officers the chief wrote: “I completely understand defending yourself during an altercation. However, striking a handcuffed subject in the face is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We cannot let our emotions direct our reactions or over-reactions to situations such as this.”
Windbigler ended the letter with, “I consider this matter closed!”
According to the South Bend Tribune, one of the officers a documented history of abuse. Newland was suspended six times and reprimanded twice in his first five years. His longest suspension, just 35 days, was for failing to investigate a woman’s domestic violence claim and lying about it to his superiors.