Weeks after federal investigators criticized the Albuquerque Police Department for a pattern of excessive force during arrests, a drunk driving suspect has alleged that an officer's brutality caused him to lose a testicle, the suspect's attorney said.
Video from a camera worn by the officer was released Monday by a group calling for police reform. The 13-minute clip shows a heated conversation between the officer and the suspect, a first-year law student at the University of New Mexico.
Just after midnight on April 25, Jeremy Martin was detained by Officer Pablo Padilla for running a stop sign and then smelling of alcohol. Martin pleaded with Padilla to let him walk away and allow a friend to drive Martin’s pickup truck from the scene. Padilla repeatedly ordered Martin to stay seated on the sidewalk, threatening to use Mace or a Taser if he did not comply, the video showed.
Martin, however, stood up and remained standing. Padilla grabbed him near the collar of his suit jacket and pushed him against the pickup. According to Martin's attorney, Sam Bregman, it’s in that instant Martin was kneed in the groin and then thrown face-first into the asphalt. The video, however, is too grainy to clearly see that action.
After that point in the altercation, Martin is heard screaming out in pain. "Sir, I'm not trying to resist. I'm not trying to hit you. Please help me up," he says. Padilla is heard requesting backup as he moves to handcuff Martin, who's on the ground.
They trade expletives. "Stop resisting," Padilla says. "I'm not resisting," Martin responds while lying flat on the ground.
“This is just completely unacceptable behavior," said Bregman, who is a former Albuquerque city councilman. “We will be filing a lawsuit in the coming weeks for battery and excessive use of force in violation of his constitutional rights.”
Martin, 24, had to have one of his testicles surgically removed within hours because it was “shattered,” Bregman said Tuesday. The testicle had been pinned between the red Toyota truck and the knee, causing a significant amount of force to be absorbed, Bregman said.
Police didn't respond Tuesday to requests by telephone and email for comment.
The removed testicle is mentioned -- along with cuts and bruises -- in a police report.
Bregman said the video showed Martin holding his hands close to his body, not posing any harm to the officer.
Patrick Davis, a former University of New Mexico police officer and now head of a New Mexico progressive advocacy group, said knee kicks are only merited when an officer faces aggressive, threatening action.
Davis’ group, ProgessNow New Mexico, sought the video through a public records request and on Monday night posted what it said was an unedited copy on YouTube. Davis said that for active resistance, such as in this case, the officer could have used his hands to twist Martin’s arms to get initial compliance.
“This officer escalated far beyond what was necessary,” Davis said. “He had plenty of time to be proactive, and get backup earlier. Letting the person get more agitated is wrong.”
Davis and Bregman said the incident was disturbing given that last month, the U.S. Justice Department warned Albuquerque police to avoid placing themselves in situations in which excessive force might become necessary.
“Every year, we were trained you don’t target suspects like this,” Davis said. “In the video, this begins to look more and more deliberate.”
Later in the full 13-minute video, Padilla is seen deleting videos on a cellphone of one of Martin's passengers, Davis said.
The string of police use-of-force incidents in Albuquerque has been met with protests and demonstrations at City Council meetings. Davis said it was not going to let up until every officer got the message.
“From placing yourself in a bad situation to using extraordinary force, everything the Justice Department calls into question is evident in this case,” he said.
In early April, the Justice Department released a harsh report that said officers were wrong to open fire in some of the more than two dozen officer-involved shootings in the last four years. The report found that a culture of "aggression" exacerbated the problem. The department needed better hiring practices and officer training, the report concluded.
Last June, a federal jury acquitted Padilla after a woman sued him for excessive use of force during a drunk driving stop. Mia Swager had accused Padilla of breaking the humerus bone in her arm by twisting it even after she asked him to stop, according to court files. A federal judge dismissed another excessive force allegation against several officers, including Padilla, in 2010, according to court records.
Martin has been charged with marijuana possession and driving under the influence of alcohol. Bregman said Martin planned to fight the charges. Martin declined to take a breathalyzer test when he was pulled over, Bregman said. He told investigators that he consumed three beers, according to a police report.
Anne Schuckman, a urologist at Keck Medicine of USC, said the amount of force required to rupture a testicle was different for each man, but being pinned against something could contribute to a more severe injury.
The health impact of having only one testicle is limited, Schuckman said.
“Generally, it won’t affect a man’s testosterone level,” she said. “It may or may not impact fertility. Generally, one should be enough.”
Bregman said Martin took his finals exams days after the surgery, but was still struggling with mental anguish from his arrest and injury.
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