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10.25.2009

video captures police beating of student













In San Jose, a cell phone video that shows San police officers repeatedly hitting an unarmed university student with batons and a Taser gun has prompted a criminal investigation into the officers' conduct: San Jose police officers caught on video using baton, Taser gun on suspect.

The video, posted on the San Jose Mercury News website, shows one officer hitting 20-year-old Vietnamese student Phuong Ho with a metal baton more than ten times, including once on the head. Another officer is seen using his Taser gun on Ho. The final baton strike appears to take place after handcuffs have been attached to Ho's wrists.

Officers arrested Ho on suspicion of assaulting one of his roommates, after argument and scuffle in which Ho picked up a steak knife. He was not armed when police arrived and he told the newspaper he didn't resist arrest:
The incident occurred after a Sept. 3 encounter between Ho and roommate Jeremy Suftin that began when Suftin slopped soap on Ho's dinner steak. The two scuffled, and Ho picked up a steak knife, saying that in Vietnam, "I would kill you for this." At least some roommates laughed at the comment, as shown on a videotape of that portion of the incident. But Suftin said he took it seriously, and the police were called. At least four officers responded.

According to police reports obtained by the Mercury News, officer Kenneth Siegel could not understand Ho's accent when he confronted him in a hallway and asked his name. Ho then ignored a command to stand still after officers entered his room to check his wallet for identification.

When Ho tried to follow Siegel into his room, officer Steven Payne Jr. attempted to handcuff Ho. According to his report, Payne pushed Ho into a wall and then forced him to the hallway floor when Ho resisted being handcuffed. Ho said his glasses fell off then, and as he attempted to pick them up, the officers struck him.
Ho, who has no criminal record, told the Mercury News last week that he was not resisting arrest that September night, but that he was desperately looking for his thick, high-prescription glasses, which flew off as police shoved him. He said he was then stunned by the blows that followed.

The video, made by one of the Ho's roommates without the knowledge of police, shows that force was used even though the suspect was on the ground, and apparently offering no physical threat to the officers. Several experts in police force said the video appears to document excessive -- and possibly illegal -- force by the officers. A police spokesman said the department had opened a criminal investigation of the officers.













Some people are already likening the situation to the Rodney King incident. Experts do caution that the grainy, shaky video is difficult to view clearly, and may not depict everything that happened. Personally, I see little that could justify such a violent, brutal police response. Outside experts note some key concerns about the video:
Ho remains on the ground, moaning and crying, as he is repeatedly struck. He does not appear to offer significant resistance, suggesting
the high level of force is not necessary.

The officer most visible in the sequence stands for much of the time in a casual posture, at one point with his legs crossed. He seems to show no concern that the situation is potentially dangerous - raising additional questions about why force was being used.

The final baton strike appears to occur after the handcuffs can be heard snapping onto Ho's wrists. That particularly troubled several outside experts.
Ho's roommate Dmitri Masouris, and his son Nicolas, were both eyewitnesses to the incident. Both said it appeared to them that the police used excessive force, including striking Ho after he was handcuffed. Masouris said he falsely told police at the time that the force appeared warranted, because he feared the result if they thought "that I was against them."

At the hospital, Ho was treated for a Taser burn and received staples to close several wounds, including the blow to his head. He also strained his right wrist during the incident.

But get this: After he spent most of the night in jail, Ho was released, then limped home. It took him two hours. And when he got home, he cleaned up and walked to his morning finance class. You know, if you get your ass beat by police, spend the night in jail, and walk two hours home, I think you're entitled to a day off. That's a dedicated student. More here: Video shows Calif. police beating of student.