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Thursday
Aug222019

California teen sues after bodycam footage shows officer punching him

iStockA California teenager has filed an excessive force lawsuit after body camera footage showed an officer punching the unarmed teen in the head and face several times.

An officer with the Fresno Police Department was captured on body camera punching 17-year-old London Wallace in January while raiding an apartment complex for wanted gang members.

Wallace was initially charged with resisting arrest, but prosecutors eventually dropped the charges. The Fresno County District Attorney's Office declined ABC News' request for comment, citing its policy against commenting on cases involving minors. Wallace did not have any gang affiliations or criminal history, according to his attorney, Nolan Kane.

Kane said he expects the video to play a key role in the teen's case against the department.

"It's a very disappointing situation. You can see London Wallace crying. You can see him bleeding," Kane told ABC's Fresno station KFSN-TV on Wednesday. "He's a high school kid. He likes playing basketball. He's a nice, calm, timid person. … And you can kind of see that in the video. He's not used to police contact."

The lawsuit names the city of Fresno, the police department and Officer Christopher Martinez as defendants.

The department said it expects an internal investigation into the incident within the next 30 days. Martinez said he punched the teen "approximately three times in the face" after Wallace "attempted to push [Martinez] back" and "took a fighting stance," according to the police report.

Martinez, according to the report, was "in fear that Wallace was going to push [Martinez] and other Officers over the side railing as he was pushing forward."

“I punched Wallace approximately three times in the face in order to get him off me and to back him up," Martinez wrote in the report. "Wallace continued to fight and he threw a punch at me, which grazed my left cheek."

Martinez claims in the police report that Wallace continued to resist while on the ground and he "struck Wallace approximately two more times while he was on the ground and actively resisting."

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the officer was placed on modified duty pending the results of the investigation.

"The video that I have reviewed certainly raises concerns and raises questions for me as a police chief," Dyer told reporters Wednesday. "Those questions will be answered once all the video is reviewed, the interviews are conducted, the evidence is looked at and the investigation is complete."

"Christopher Martinez attacked, punched and tackled Plaintiff to the ground resulting in serious injuries to Plaintiff, including but not limited to, a broken nose, bleeding and emotional distress," the suit said. "At no point did Plaintiff pose a threat to Officer Christopher Martinez or any other Fresno Police Department Officer. At no point did Plaintiff disobey any orders from the Fresno Police Department."

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