Captured on cellphone video, three Pomona police officers were arrested Thursday after viciously attacking an innocent teenager at the Los Angeles County Fair and participating in a cover-up to legally justify the assault. In addition to preparing false reports, the officers allegedly downloaded the bystander’s video without his knowledge and edited several seconds of the footage in an attempt to cover-up their illicit actions.
On September 16, 2015, Christian Aguilar, 16, and his family attended Los Angeles County Fair at the Pomona Fairplex when his cousin became frustrated that a beer stand had closed. As his cousin exchanged words with nearby police officers, Aguilar’s father attempted to calm everyone down when the cops suddenly arrested both men on suspicion of public intoxication.
As the officers began escorting his father and cousin away, the minor recorded them on his cellphone while following between 10 and 15ft behind them. Ordered to stop following, Aguilar continued recording while remaining a safe distance from the officers.
According to Pomona Police Department (PPD) Corporal Chad Jensen, Aguilar attempted to punch him in the face and came within arm’s reach (2 to 3ft) of another officer escorting one of his relatives. Jensen’s partner, Officer Prince Hutchinson, corroborated the false narrative in his report and accused Aguilar of yelling at onlookers in an attempt to “incite unrest.”
But according to a bystander’s cellphone video, Cpl. Jensen forced the minor to face a wall before abruptly swinging him around by the arm and punching him in the face. Instead of fighting back, Aguilar attempted to maintain his balance as another officer struck him in the leg with a baton.
Shortly after the boy collapsed to the ground, one of the cops deployed a Taser as a police sergeant brandishing a baton stepped in front of the camera to block the video. Aguilar and the bystander were arrested for obstructing a peace officer.
Although the bystander was later released without charges, the police downloaded the video from his phone before releasing him. According to David Gammill, an attorney for the Aguilar family, the Pomona police edited out the first several seconds of the video before submitting the altered footage to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“You watch the two videos and you think, ‘My god. They altered the video.’ It’s the stuff of movies,” Gammill told ABC7. “The full video shows that Christian is face forward against the fence and that he’s spun around by Officer Jensen and that he never swings and then Jensen starts unloading forearms.”
After reviewing the unedited video during Aguilar’s trial, the judge dismissed the charges against the innocent teen. Questioning the integrity of the arresting officers, prosecutors subsequently dropped the case against Aguilar’s father. Last year, the City of Pomona agreed to pay Aguilar $500,000 to settle his civil lawsuit.
Besides filing false reports to justify their use of excessive force, Jensen and Hutchinson allegedly provided false testimony during state court proceedings against Aguilar. After lying to Aguilar’s family by falsely informing them that the police had video of their son punching Jensen, PPD Sergeant Michael Neaderbaomer erroneously told his parents that they could not be present while officers interrogated their son, in violation of PPD policy.
On Thursday, Jensen and Hutchinson were charged with obstruction of justice and preparing false reports that attempted to justify the use of force. Jensen was also charged with deprivation of rights under color of law.
Neaderbaomer was charged with obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and making false statements to FBI agents.
If convicted, Jensen would face a maximum of 50 years in federal prison. Hutchinson could face up to 40 years, while Neaderbaomer potentially faces a maximum sentence of 30 years. All three officers have been placed on paid administrative leave.
Their trial is scheduled for December 19.