by Danielle Eden C. Silva and Alexandra Quilici
Officers Testify on Recorded Arrest Concerning Tasering
By Danielle Eden C. Silva
West Sacramento Police Officers Nathann Ogden and Raymond Barrantes testified as to their arrest of defendant Eric Michael O’Connor, which involved a Taser and a takedown, all captured on camera.
On November 30, 2017, in Department 9 at 9:15 am, both officers were called to the stand to testify on behalf of the prosecution. The defendant was not present for the trial. Officer Barrantes was the first to take the stand.
The arrest took place on May 24, 2017, at 5:44 pm in West Sacramento.
Officers Ogden and Barrantes were dispatched to a mobile home park. They had been informed of a verbal dispute between family members. Prior to the encounter, Officer Ogden manually turned on his body camera on his vest.
Both the defense and prosecution used different portions of the video in making their cases.
In the video, Officer Ogden parks his police vehicle behind Officer Barrantes and trails behind him to a mobile home. Officer Barrantes commands a person off camera to take off their backpack. As Officer Ogden comes forward, a man appearing to be under the influence, Eric O’Connor, is seen putting down a backpack.
Officer Barrantes then commands Mr. O’Connor to approach and turn around. Mr. O’Connor approaches but fails to turn around. When Barrantes reaches for his hand, the defendant twists his arm away. Mr. O’Connor makes various arms movements and facial expressions.
Officer Barrantes assists the man in turning around, saying he needs to relax or he will be Tasered.
Mr. O’Connor bends over. Officer Ogden places a hand on the defendant’s neck and wrists to assist Officer Barrantes. Barrantes then says he will be taking O’Connor down.
The footage becomes blurry during the takedown. Once the video comes into focus again, O’Connor is seen on his side. Officers Barrantes and Ogden struggle to secure his hands. Mr. O’Connor’s right hand is handcuffed but the left hand is out of view.
Officer Barrantes continually directs the defendant to relax. Unable to secure the left hand, Officer Ogden informs the defendant that he will use a Taser on him. The defendant begins to shout profanities and Officer Ogden tases him in the lower back. Seconds later, Officer Barrantes deploys his baton as he commands Mr. O’Connor to his stomach and to put his hands on his back.
The defendant complies as Officer Barrantes leans down and handcuffs him. Officer Ogden informs dispatch they detained Mr. O’Connor. Barrantes collapses his baton and searches O’Connor’s pockets. The video ends.
Officer Barrantes was then cross-examined by the defense. The officer agreed that dispatch had no report of a weapon, needles, violence, or injuries. However, he was still concerned for officer safety, as with every call.
The defendant was not aggressive, Officer Barrantes also confirmed, but he failed to comply with commands and police body language. Officer Barrantes also clarified that he threatened Mr. O’Connor with the Taser to gain compliance.
The defense then asked for clarification on the use of handcuffs. Officer Barrantes stated that handcuffs are used only to restrain people for officer safety. Mr. O’Connor was giving clear indications
of being a threat to officer safety, such as bending over. Officer Barrantes also noted the baton was deployed in case the defendant would continue not to comply.
The prosecution in redirect reiterated defense questions. Officer Barrantes noted that although dispatch doesn’t mention what could be present (in the way of a weapon), it does not mean something will not be there.
Officer Barrantes also further explained that Tasers only have a small period of effectiveness. Mr. O’Connor could have stood up and attacked them after that period.
Officer Ogden’s testimony followed.
In his testimony, he explained his standard police uniform, which he wore on the day of the arrest.
He also stated the grandmother of the defendant called about her grandson on the porch. The grandmother had locked all doors and windows, as the defendant was under the influence.
Officer Ogden noted that location of the arrest was a “high crime area” and he had answered many calls there, regarding domestic violence, verbal fights and auto theft. He shared Officer Barrantes’ experience that dispatch calls aren’t completely clear on what they should expect.
Officer Ogden also clarified that he has had training on methamphetamine indicators and has met with hundreds of people who have been under the influence. Ogden noted that Mr. O’Connor was identified by name verbally.
Mr. O’Connor came off of the porch toward Officer Barrantes. Officer Ogden noted he was resisting, “moving his hands erratically,” and making strange facial expressions. Ogden identified these as signs of being under the influence of meth.
Officer Ogden noted that a uniform usually has a Taser, baton, and pistol. He specified the modes of the Taser and the five-second mode he had used in the arrest.
Officer Ogden specified that he was signaled to bring Mr. O’Connor down. He noted O’Connor continued to resist, so he tased him. Afterward, Mr. O’Connor was searched and the meth pipe was found. Officer Ogden showed the jury the residue on the glass pipe to show how it was used.
The prosecution pointed out how Barrantes commanded Mr. O’Connor to relax before taking him down. The takedown wasn’t clean, Officer Ogden noted. However, no takedown is perfect in the field, he stated.
Officer Ogden also noted if he hadn’t tased O’Connor, they could have been in danger. If the defendant stood up, the handcuffs could be used as weapons.
In addition, Officer Ogden expressed that dispatch sent more units since the officers couldn’t immediately confirm detaining Mr. O’Connor.
During cross-examination, Officer Ogden also confirmed that there were no weapons, needles, reported injuries, or violence. He didn’t hear fighting or yelling but he stated he was always concerned for officer safety.
Officer Ogden noted that handcuffs are used when a person is not free to leave, and he received a signal from Officer Barrantes to take him down.
Officer Ogden also affirmed that both officers didn’t tell O’Connor to stand up straight. He stated that bending over would not always be considered a threat.
Following the officers’ testimonies was that of the defendant’s grandmother.
She testified that she called the police to her home. The witness shared that Mr. O’Connor was on the porch on drugs and wouldn’t leave. She noted that she was fine with his coming over if he wasn’t on drugs.
Prior to the arrest, Mr. O’Connor had lived with her but she had evicted him due to his drug use. She testified she hadn’t seen the arrest but an officer came in to talk with her.
The trial was to resume this afternoon at 1:30 pm with the defense’s case.
Closing Statements in Resisting Arrest Trial
By Alexandra Quilici
The jury was sent into deliberation late Thursday afternoon in the trial concerning Eric O’Connor, who remains on his own recognizance and failed to show up to these court proceedings. Each lawyer gave their closing statements in regard to the charge of O’Connor resisting arrest (with the prosecution saying there was no misconduct on the officers’ side).
The People began their statement by arguing that the police acted appropriately by responding to a call made by O’Connor’s grandmother, who claimed the defendant was on methamphetamine and had been evicted from her place. The family member claimed she did not want him on her property when he was on meth.
The attorney then claimed that the police officer lawfully performed his duties, because he was on high alert as he entered a high crime area, knew the defendant was on meth, and was responding to a domestic disturbance call.
The police officers had to take down the defendant, and felt it necessary to use their Taser against him. According to the body camera footage, the police officer said, “Give us your hand,” which the defendant then hid under his stomach. The police officers had no way of knowing if the defendant had any sort of weapon or needle on him that could cause harm.
Evidence showed police making statements like “relax your hands,” and, when he did not comply, the police officer deployed his Taser for his personal safety.
In response to these claims, the defense attorney claimed that the police officer used far more excessive force than was necessary. The defense said there should have been a “please get off the porch” request before approaching the witness in violence. They also made the claim that the officers came to the trailer park area looking for a fight.
Apparently when approached, the defendant was moving his hands uncontrollably, thus making it hard for him to comply with the physical requests of the officer. Also, in response to a domestic disturbance, the attorney felt it unnecessary to even bring handcuffs into the situation.
A picture of Officer Barrantes from the other officer’s body camera was zoomed in on, where he appeared to be sharing a sly smile with his co-worker. This was interpreted by the defense as the officers truly not fearing for their safety, but using the Taser for their own personal enjoyment.
Also, the People kept bringing up that the defendant was “high,” which defense felt was inappropriate as this is a case about whether the police acted accordingly or not.
In the final rebuttal, the People stressed that an 88-year-old grandma called in distress regarding her grandson, in a high crime area, with methamphetamine most likely involved. The defendant also made many voluntary moves, such as bending over to shield himself from police, stepping forward, and clenching his fists.
The jury was then sent out to deliberate the verdict, which was not reached by the end of the day.