SJ police caught beating, Tasing suspect


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The story was reported Sunday morning by ABC7 media partner the San Jose Mercury News.

The video is tough to watch and listen to. The sounds of police batons striking the 20-year-old San Jose State student can be heard and so can the sound of him crying out in pain. San Jose's police chief says people should not prejudge the situation, but he has launched an investigation and placed the officers on paid administrative leave.

Mercury News: Raw cell phone video
Mercury News: Read the entire story

The three San Jose police officers on the tape did not know they were being recorded by a cell phone camera. They were trying to arrest 20-year-old Phuong Ho who had threatened his roommate with a knife. Another roommate recorded the incident.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the police report says officers hit Ho at least ten times with a baton and used a Taser gun. Even Police Chief Rob Davis says the video is tough to watch.

"When we see officers using that level of force, there's a big question in our mind. 'Was it justified?' And, so that's what the investigation will be about," he told ABC7.

"They said I was kicking, but my leg was shaking because, because like four guys were hitting me with a baton," Ho recalled. "Well, any mammal would react that way."

Ho told ABC7 police shoved him up against a wall, knocked his eyeglasses off his face, threw him to the ground and then started beating him.

"This is wrong. I can't imagine something like this would happen in this country," he said.

San Jose Mercury news reporter Sean Webby has been investigating this story. He also interviewed Ho.

"He had to have a series of staples put in his head and in his legs. He had to be treated for a Taser burn. I don't think he had major injuries that he's still suffering from, but he was pretty beaten up after the incident," he said.

Webby reports that police say Ho resisted their attempt to take him into custody, a claim Ho denies. Police say they will have to enhance the video to get a clear picture. But, as soon as they saw it, they decided to investigate.

"We've got to be very careful not to prejudge the officers because we're conducting a fair, objective investigation," Chief Davis said Saturday. "If the officers have done something wrong they will be held accountable."

Webby says, "The real underlying question is, 'Do they use reasonable force?' According to Phuong Ho, and I think reasonable people who look at the video might look at it and say, 'Why are the officers striking him so many times with the baton? Why are they Tasering him?'"

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed released a statement Sunday saying he was "troubled by the contents" of the cell phone video. "I appreciate that Chief Davis and the San Jose Police Department immediately launched an investigation upon receiving this video from the Mercury News," he said.

Ho faces charges of brandishing a weapon and resisting arrest. He is in the Bay Area on a visa from Saigon and is worried about how this will affect his status. He has hired an attorney.

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