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Chief says it's too early to judge officers in beating video

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The Long Beach police chief said Wednesday that the YouTube video of a man lying on the ground and being struck by officers with batons and shocked with an electric stun gun  is disturbing, but it is too early to judge the incident.

Porfirio Santos-Lopez, 46, was taken into custody Monday evening after allegedly getting into a fight with two men, then engaging in a minutes-long struggle with officers trying to subdue him near Locust Avenue and South Street.

In the nearly five-minute video (note: vulgar language) Santos-Lopez can be seen lying on his back in the middle of the street surrounded by Long Beach police officers.

Officers then use a stun gun on Santos-Lopez and strike him repeatedly in the legs and other parts of his body with batons. At times, Santos-Lopez shouts back, but what he is saying is unclear.

Chief James McDonnell said three videos captured the initial fight involving the suspect and his subsequent engagement with police. A fourth captured him lying on the ground.

“It is too early to make any judgments.… The YouTube video is certainly disturbing. Any time you see someone hit with the baton, there is level of discomfort,” he said, noting that the investigation is ongoing.

“A thorough investigation is underway," he added. "Each action of the officers will be evaluated fully.”

Long Beach police said officers used stun guns on the man and delivered baton blows to his arms and legs and possibly his torso to gain compliance.

The department trains officers to avoid the head, neck, throat, kidneys and groin, areas likely to cause permanent damage, officials said.

“The baton and the Taser are tools for us to use and get a combative subject into custody,” Long Beach Police Sgt. Aaron Eaton said. “In this case, the suspect was adamant that he was not going to roll over onto his stomach.

“When you look at the initial video, it just doesn’t look good,” Eaton continued. “We want to refrain from using that judgment on a first impression.”

Santos-Lopez's live-in girlfriend, Lee Ann Hernandez, said Wednesday that he had been acting different lately.

“He’s not the one to go out and fight,” Hernandez said. “His mind was probably agitated and he wasn’t himself.”

She said he started hearing voices and "seeing" people in their home who weren't there.

“He thinks my late husband is here,” she said. “He thinks he’s angry and he’s trying to hurt him.”

Hernandez said Santos-Lopez has a drinking problem and that she had asked police several times to get him psychiatric treatment. Police officials could not immediately verify her claims.

Santos-Lopez will be booked after his release from the hospital, where he was being treated for a broken arm and other injuries, Hernandez said.

The officers involved in the incident remained on duty Wednesday and a standard use-of-force investigation has begun, Eaton said.

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