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San Diego County sheriff's deputies charged with misdemeanor assault in rough arrest

A 22-second video posted Tuesday on Facebook shows sheriff’s deputies in Vista manhandling two restrained suspects. (Courtesy of Ashley Tovar)

Two San Diego County sheriff’s deputies are facing criminal charges in connection with a violent arrest in Vista that was captured on video by a neighbor nearly seven months ago, the San Diego County district attorney’s office announced Tuesday.

Deputy Nicholas Morgan, 27, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault without lawful necessity by an officer. Prosecutors allege Morgan assaulted a father and son during a May arrest. He faces up to two years in jail if convicted.

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Deputy Joshua Nahan, 31, is facing one misdemeanor count of assault without lawful necessity by an officer for allegedly assaulting the older man. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.

The two men are slated to be arraigned Friday morning in Vista.

“Law enforcement officers hold a position of trust in our community and are required to abide by the rules in the exercise of their powers,” Dist. Atty. Summer Stephan said in a statement. “The evidence on which the charges are based shows the force used by the two deputies exceeded the legal line, violating that public trust. For justice to thrive, it is important that no one is above the law.”

The May 7 encounter with authorities grabbed attention after the video of the waning seconds of the arrest of a father and son.

The 22-second recording appeared to show deputies manhandling Gerardo Martinez Sr., 50, and his namesake son after they were in handcuffs.

The footage showed Martinez Sr. shoved into a wooden fence face first. His 24-year-old son, pinned to a sidewalk, was struck repeatedly on his head.

A neighbor shot the recording. Martinez Sr.’s daughter posted it on social media. There, it quickly picked up steam and garnered media coverage.

On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Department issued a statement that it learned of the video the day after the arrest, and immediately opened an internal investigation, which it said was “comprehensive” and included reviewing video from the deputies’ body-worn cameras, as well as reports and interviews with everyone involved.

“The Department does not tolerate misconduct of any kind,” the Sheriff’s Department said.

After the arrest, the district attorney’s office dropped all charges against the elder Martinez, and also dismissed a resisting-arrest charge against his son. In July, the son pleaded guilty to a domestic violence-related charge and was sentenced to four years of probation.

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