Surveillance video of a San Joaquin County correctional officer hitting a handcuffed arrestee wearing a spit hood was released Tuesday by the district attorney’s office.
“This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said in a statement. “Individuals who abuse their power and position will be tried and punished to the full extent of the law.”
The video was recorded on Aug. 24, 2017, in the San Joaquin County Jail after the arrestee was taken into custody. The 35-second video, which has no audio, shows the man handcuffed, sitting on the floor and leaning against a wall while wearing a spit hood. Two Manteca police officers are in the room with the man when a third officer, a San Joaquin County sheriff’s correctional officer, enters through a side door.
In the video, the third officer then walks up to the man in the hood, looks down at him and hits him on the side of the head. The force of the hit makes the man fall over and onto the ground. The officer then leans over the man and pulls him back upright.
“What happens next is one of our correctional officers enters the holding area and then, inexplicably, strikes the man in the head,” the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. “The detainee was sitting, legs and arms cuffed, and apparently posing no threat.”
The video shows a fourth officer walk into the room as the third officer pulls the man off the ground.
The Manteca police officers witnessed the hit and immediately reported the incident to their supervisors, the district attorney’s office said.
“We are very grateful to the Manteca Police Officer who witnessed this incident and then immediately reported the matter up the chain of command,” the sheriff’s office said.
The man was taken into custody earlier by Manteca police after he was found passed out in front of a business, the DA’s office said. Police and medical personnel woke the man up and then arrested him for public intoxication. He was supposed to be released after he sobered up, the DA’s office said.
During the arrest, the man was “physically and verbally combative, including spitting,” the DA’s office said. Police then placed the spit hood on the man.
The man was hit by the correctional officer after being placed in the pre-booking area of the San Joaquin County Jail, the DA’s office said.
The district attorney’s office was told about the incident later in the day and began in an investigation. As a result, Correctional Officer Matthew Mettler was charged with a misdemeanor count of assault by a public officer, the DA’s office said in a Facebook post.
Mettler was arraigned on Oct. 18, 2017. The DA’s office said he will appear in San Joaquin County Court on Monday, March 26 for a motion hearing. A trial date has not been set.
Mettler was placed on administrative leave after the incident was reported, the sheriff’s office said. The sheriff’s office launched internal and criminal investigations, which were then handed over to the DA’s office.
“As Sheriff, I don’t condone the actions as portrayed on this video by our jail staff,” Sheriff Steve Moore said on Facebook. “It is inconsistent with the professionalism of San Joaquin County Correctional Officers, and of this department. The action taken by the DA’s office is appropriate and we support their position.”