Officers Named in Taser Incident Caught on Tape

Tuesday, Oct 27, 2009  |  Updated 7:51 PM PDT
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SJPD Investigated Excessive Force Charge

Incident happened in early September

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Police Union Defends SJ Cops

The Department of Justice has stepped in to an excessive force allegation in San Jose.

SJPD Investigated Excessive Force Charge

The San Jose Police Department has placed four of its own on leave after a questionable arrest.
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A criminal investigation has begun into the actions of four San  Jose police officers, two of whom were captured on a cell phone camera using a baton and a Taser stun gun last month on a 20-year-old Vietnamese exchange student at San Jose State University.

  Police Sgt. Ronnie Lopez said Monday that all four officers have  been placed on paid administrative leave. They have been identified as officers Kenneth Siegel, Steven Payne Jr., Jerome Smith and Gabriel Reyes.
 
Lopez said the Police Department is reviewing evidence and statements related to the incident on Sept. 3 when the officers responded to a report of a man brandishing a knife at one of his roommates at their home  in the 100 block of South 23rd Street.
 
Upon arrival, officers reported having a hard time getting the  suspect, Phuong Quang Ho, to cooperate, Lopez said.
 
Siegal used his baton and Payne used his Taser to control Ho and  eventually took him into custody, Lopez said. He was arrested on suspicion of brandishing a weapon and resisting arrest.
 
The officers' actions on the video, brought to the attention of  the Police Department by a San Jose Mercury News reporter Thursday, led to a probe into the officers' method of arrest.
 
Investigators will turn over their findings to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office by Friday for review. Lopez said an  administrative investigation would be launched afterward.
 
Lopez said that in the meantime,the Police Department has begun  outreach efforts in San Jose, including to the Vietnamese-American community.

Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American herself, said the community is concerned and seeking answers following another incident earlier this year in which she said police may have used excessive force.

On May 10, 27-year-old San Jose resident Daniel Pham was shot and killed by officers Matthew Blackerby and Brian Jeffrey. The officers had responded to a report of a family disturbance at a home on Branbury Way, where they encountered Pham holding a knife. Pham had allegedly refused to drop it and instead charged at the officers with the knife, prompting them to shoot him.

Nguyen said she was "greatly disturbed" by the new video, which shows a handcuffed Ho being beaten.

"It's never necessary to use excessive force, especially on an unarmed civilian," Nguyen said. "In this case that is what apparently happened."

Nguyen said she is calling on the Police Department to conduct a thorough and speedy investigation into the matter. She said that along with  Councilmen Sam Liccardo and Ash Kalra, she asks that if District Attorney  Dolores Carr chooses to conduct a grand jury proceeding, that it be open to  the public.

Lopez said the Police Department takes proactive efforts to "maintain the highest standards of conduct." He encouraged anyone who may  have been involved in a similar situation to call the Internal Affairs unit  at (408) 277-4094 or the Office of the Independent Police Auditor at (408)  794-6226.
 
"We definitely take this compliant seriously," Lopez said.

In a memo to the Rules and Open Government Committee regarding the criminal investigation, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed requested that the  committee consider releasing police records related to Ho's arrest, including  the police report, 911 tapes, additional audio and video tapes and force response reports.
 

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