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Santa Ana ex-cop is charged in beating of Mexican immigrant

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A grand jury charged former Santa Ana Police officer Brian Booker.
(Getty Images)

A former police officer who beat a man during a 2014 arrest was charged with allegedly violating his civil rights by using unreasonable force and lying about the incident.

A federal grand jury charged former Santa Ana Police officer Brian Booker, 50, Wednesday with one felony count of deprivation of rights and two felony counts of falsification of records.

According to the indictment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Booker used unreasonable force during an arrest on June 19, 2014. The incident matches a 2014 account related to Edgar Vargas Arzate, a Mexican immigrant who was beaten by Santa Ana police officers in response to a burglary call. In a video that surfaced after the incident, officers appear to repeatedly hit Arzate, then 27, and swing a baton at his legs as he lies face down on the ground.

The beating occurred after police reportedly chased Arzate through several backyards after a resident reported a man who appeared to be on drugs tried to break into her house.

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When police finally caught up to Arzate, a neighbor’s home security camera appears to show the man raising his hands in the air as police ordered him to the ground.

Following the incident, federal prosecutors say Booker falsely claimed that the victim — identified in indictment papers only as E.A. — reached toward Booker and grabbed him by his right leg.

Booker also stated that he punched the back of the victim’s head three to four times because he believed the victim was about to tackle him and potentially gain access to Booker’s firearm.

According to the indictment, the victim was not resisting arrest. Booker allegedly knew his statements were false when the reports were filed.

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Arzate was detained by immigration officials in 2014 when he was headed to the courthouse to attend a hearing on the burglary charges. He was later released, but the incident sparked debate. According to the OC Weekly, protesters accused Santa Ana police of tipping off federal immigration officials. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Santa Ana Police denied the allegations.

Booker retired from the Santa Ana Police Department in 2018 after approximately 19 years. If convicted of all counts, he would face a maximum of 60 years in federal prison.

He will be arraigned on Aug. 12.


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