The Salinas Police Department is initiating an internal investigation of an arrest last spring, after a complaint was filed and video of the man’s arrest became public this week.
On Tuesday, someone posted a video to YouTube depicting body-camera footage from an April arrest.
In the footage, more than a half-dozen officers are seen chasing a man identified on YouTube as Jeffrey Mackay. The man tries to scale a fence but falls after officers use two stun guns on him.
Jeffrey Tyler Mackay, 27, was arrested late on the night of April 23 after two car chases, according to Monterey County Superior Court documents.
Officers spotted him running a stop sign in a 1998 silver Honda Civic at about 11:07 p.m. at San Vicente Avenue and West Acacia Street, documents show.
When he sped away, they chased him for a short time. Officers abandoned the chase as he went the wrong way on a one-way street, documents show. A short time later officers spotted him again and chased him to an apartment complex on Archer Street, where Mackay left his car, which then rolled into another vehicle.
After a foot chase, several officers eventually stopped him using the stun guns, punches and kicks, which appear to be shown in the YouTube video.
The person who posted the video, who goes by the name “Jack and Hennessy” and was identified as Mackay’s fiance in other news reports, wrote that the videos were released last week after Mackay was sentenced.
He had pleaded no contest to driving the wrong way on a street while fleeing from an officer, a felony, and misdemeanor resisting arrest, court records show. Charges of assault with a deadly weapon, evading police and hit-and-run were dismissed.
He was sentenced to four years in prison with credit for 341 days, the records show.
The video, which begins as the man is being Tasered, appears to have been spliced together from several different body cameras.
“We are investigating the actions of the officers to make sure that they followed policy based on the allegations that were brought forward,” said Salinas Police Assistant Chief Roberto B. Filice. “We hold our officers at a high standard because that’s what’s expected by our community and our officers have no issues with that. To be fair to the public and the officers, we need to investigate it.”
Filice said “the video that has been out there has been altered,” and that the same actions are played over and over “so that it appears it’s ongoing.”
The person who posted the videos wrote: “I have full original videos. They are simply cropped together to see both angles from different cameras at once.”
The department opens internal investigations when it receives a complaint, and one was received regarding this specific incident within the last few days, Filice said.
Alleging brutality, the person who posted the video writes that the footage “shows the helpless victim being tased, punched, and kicked multiple times, even after being fully incapacitated. All cries for mercy were ignored.”
The video was viewed nearly 1,800 times as of Friday morning.
In Mackay’s mugshot from that night, he has a black eye and some scrapes on his face. He is now incarcerated at North Kern State Prison, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
He also suffered “a ruptured eardrum that will likely lead to permanent hearing loss,” Mackay’s attorney wrote in a Monterey County Superior Court document seeking police records on officers’ conduct.
Attorney Roland L. Soltesz, who also represented Mackay, viewed the body camera footage, he said in a court filing.
“Mackay was submitting to the arrest following being Tasered and falling to the ground,” Soltesz said. “Though the officer reports claim that Mr. Mackay was continually resisting arrest by tensing his arm, placing his hands under his stomach and refusing to listen to commands, the (body camera) footage shows Mr. Mackay immediately said, ‘I’m done… I’m not resisting’ upon falling to the ground.”
When an officer placed a handcuff on one of Mackay’s hands, his “hair became tangled in the handcuff,” Soletsz said.
“Mackay was trying to cooperate with the officers but was instead beaten until his eardrum ruptured,” Soletsz said.
Mackay’s attorney had asked for any police misconduct records involving officers Jordy Urrutia, Robert Hernandez, David Puckett, Edgar Garcia, Cameron Mitchell, Ryan Keating, Froyland Aranda, Jose Luis Fletes Jr. and Clifton Smith.
Fletes originally tried to pull Mackay over, while Garcia and Puckett used their Tasers on Mackay, court documents show.
Urrutia, Aranda and Mitchell also struggled with Mackay after he was taken to the ground. Keating had spotted Mackay after he escaped police during the first chase.
Hernandez patted down the suspect, noting in his report “it took… four officers on each side in an attempt to retrieve the suspect’s arms” that he allegedly was keeping under his stomach.
Smith’s role in the struggle, if any, isn’t clear. The defense filing included some but not all police reports related to the arrest.
Rhonda Combs, senior deputy city attorney for the city of Salinas, objected to disclosing records of the officers’ conduct in a June 15 filing.
Combs did, however, acknowledge the body camera footage showed Mackay’s “long hair was tangled into a cuff or something and that is why he was refusing to cooperate,” she said.
“He would have had to pull his own hair to tender his left hand (for) officers to cuff,” she said.
Officers used a “kick to the shoulder and closed-fist hits” to finish handcuffing him, she wrote.
Nonetheless, Combs added that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that excessive force accusations must be viewed from the vantage of the moment it happened.
“Officers are often forced to make split second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force necessary,” she said.
She also noted that Mackay had led officers on two car chases and then ran away from them after 11 p.m.
“He is doing his time for his mistakes that night,” the person who posted the video wrote on YouTube. “This video is only to bring to light the other side of the story. I am a strong supporter of police but they need to be held accountable as well.”
In the lead-up to the struggle, Salinas police officers noted Mackay had repeatedly reached for his waistband while running in the dimly lit apartment complex, the police reports show.
After two officers used the stun guns on him, Mackay, lying face down, wouldn’t remove his hands from underneath his stomach, the reports say.
Officers said they feared he was trying to access a weapon in his waistband or front pockets, so they began striking him until he said “OK. I’m done. I’ll stop,” police said.
After they handcuffed him, Mackay was evaluated by paramedics before being taken to the jail. Officers reported injuries from the struggle, including one officer whose left middle finger “was bent backwards,” according to the reports.
The reports did not mention the handcuff snaring some of Mackay’s hair.
Mackay has had many encounters with law enforcement, some of them violent, Monterey County Superior Court records show.
In April 2016, he was accused of resisting arrest and seriously injuring Monterey County Sheriff’s deputy Brandon Smith.
The more serious charge was dismissed after he pleaded no contest to resisting or obstructing an officer. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years of formal probation.
In January 2011, Mackay was charged with resisting arrest. He pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to three years probation, according to court records.
A year before, he’d been charged with felony battery on a peace officer and pleaded no contest, court records show.
He also was accused of felony DUI in 2010, to which he pleaded no contest, which led to the suspension of his driver’s license.
On April 22, the day before Salinas police allegedly used excessive force, Mackay was caught by Marina police on suspicion of driving on a suspended license. Court records show that charge was later dismissed.
Filice said after a formal complaint is received, the case is assigned to the police department’s internal investigations sergeant. He or she then conducts interviews with all involved and gets as much information as possible to compile a report.
That report is given to the chief of police and executive staff to review whether policy violations took place, Filice said. If a violation is found, action is taken, he said.
Internal investigations may take months to complete.
“Obviously we try to address complaints as expeditiously as possible but we can’t say how long it will take because we do not know,” Filice said.
The chief will make the final determination on what information from the investigation will be shared with the public, he said.
“One of the things that I’d like for people to consider is that the video has been altered and what they are depicting there is not what happened,” Filice said. “Unfortunately, since we have an internal investigation going, we can’t share any videos we have at this time … I would ask people to keep an open mind.”
Filice added that the police department has seen increased trust with the community and the police chief’s goal is to be “as transparent as possible.”
“We ask the public to be patient and let us go through the process of investigating the incident and then the chief will be able to share the facts once we know all the facts,” he said. “But we do want to thank the community for all the support we have received.”
Filice said Friday the police department has not been served with any notice that a civil lawsuit has been filed in this case.
“Salinas PD investigating alleged police brutality in April arrest posted to YouTube”,