The Merced Police Department's Internal Affairs Division is investigating a complaint alleging that an officer twice used a Taser against an unarmed, wheelchair-bound man with no legs.
The incident occurred Sept. 11.
The man who was Tasered, 40-year-old Gregory Williams, a double-leg amputee, spent six days in jail on suspicion of domestic violence and resisting arrest, although the Merced County District Attorney's Office hasn't filed charges in the case.
Williams, who was released from jail Friday, said he was violently manhandled and Tasered by police, even though he claims he was never physically aggressive toward the officers or resisted arrest.
Even worse for him, Williams says he was publicly humiliated after his pants fell down during the incident. The officers allegedly left him outdoors in broad daylight, handcuffed on the pavement, nude below the waist. Williams said the arrest also left him with an injured shoulder, limiting his mobility in his wheelchair.
And although the two lead arresting officers are white, and Williams is black, it remains unknown whether race was a factor in the incident. Those two officers remain on duty.
Williams said the officers never used any racial epithets toward him. Although he does believe race and class played a role in his arrest, he also feels the police just wanted to be "downright nasty" to him. "They did what they did because they can get away with it," he said. "They've been doing it so long, it doesn't matter who they do it to. They just think they can get away with it."
A handful of residents who live in Williams' apartment complex claim they witnessed the incident and support Williams' charges. A short video clip, shot by a neighbor in the complex and obtained by the Sun-Star, clearly shows Williams sitting on the pavement with his pants down, his hands cuffed behind his back.
A Merced police report obtained by the Sun-Star tells a somewhat different story from that of Williams. The report, written by the responding officers, suggests that police had tried to reason with Williams before the arrest, to no avail. The officers wrote in the report that Williams was uncooperative and refused to turn over his 2-year-old daughter to Merced County Child Protective Services, among other allegations.
In the report, police also say a hostile crowd had gathered as the officers attempted to perform their duties.
The Merced Police Department's spokesman officially declined to comment on the matter, saying he can't legally speak about it because of the internal investigation.
The Sun-Star interviewed Williams and several neighbors who said they witnessed his arrest.
Police use Tasers more often
Tasers have become more controversial as they're more widely used by law enforcement. Proponents, including most U.S. law enforcement agencies and related foundations, say the weapon allows officers to control suspects and criminals without resorting to deadly force, pepper spray or batons. The stun guns, which transmit up to 50,000 volts of electricity, are supposed to disable a suspect or criminal for several seconds so officers can handcuff or otherwise control him. Tasers have become popular over the last decade, and more than 12,400 police departments worldwide use them.
Opponents blame Tasers for more than 150 deaths in the U.S. in recent years. A 2005 report by the American Civil Liberties Union claims that the weapon is "largely unregulated." In a survey of more than 50 departments across central and northern California, the ACLU concluded that "in the absence of strong regulations on how police use the weapon, we are likely to see more unnecessary deaths."