San Francisco police have seen the amateur video and they say it was a case of attempted "suicide by cop," but the public defender's office sees it very differently.
In cellphone video obtained by ABC7, two San Francisco police officers can be seen trying to subdue a suspect in the hallway of a Perry Street apartment building when two more officers arrive as backup.
"Based on the video, it looks like the officers are using way too much force," San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said. "You can hear the punches. At that point, he's clearly on the ground, appears to be subdued, doesn't appear to present a risk to anybody, so I think this raises huge questions."
But according to police, the Tuesday night arrest came minutes after the 49-year-old suspect had violently attacked a female neighbor and the apartment manager. And when the first officers arrived, the man shouted, "I have a gun and I'm going to use it,' while holding his hand behind his back.
According the police report, prior to the video one officer did pull his gun on the suspect, but didn't fire. The officers also pepper sprayed the man but it had no effect.
"The video shows one aspect, if you will, one angle, of what the camera sees; it doesn't show everything that led up to the point in time where the camera starts and so forth," San Francisco Police Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.
On the ground, police say the suspect continued to struggle with officers, clawing and spitting in their faces while claiming to have a "communicable disease." All that stopped when the backup arrived and the suspect was eventually turned over and handcuffed.
"Context is always important, but the significant fact to me is that he had been subdued by the first two officers and did not pose an active threat to any of the four officers who were on the scene," Public Defender's Office investigator Jay Rorty said.
Rorty investigates allegations of police misconduct for the Public Defender's Office.
Though the officers did not know as they struggled with him, investigators say the suspect wrote of his intent in an earlier Internet post which said, "I'm going to check out. Tonight's the night. The cops are coming here. I'm going to pretend to have a gun so the cops will shoot me."
The suspect is in the hospital, but not for any injuries sustained during the arrest.
Three police officers were hurt in the incident, two with cuts and bruises and the third is out on disability with a fractured hand.