Caught on surveillance video repeatedly punching an unarmed man in the back of the head, a former California police officer was recently charged with using unreasonable force and filing false reports in order to cover-up his actions. In the video, another officer can be seen striking the unarmed man’s legs with a metal baton.
On June 19, 2014, a home surveillance camera recorded then 27-year-old Edgar Vargas-Arzate placing his hands in the air before calmly lying on his stomach in surrender. As several officers surrounded the suspect, Santa Ana police officer Brian Patric Booker suddenly began punching the back of Vargas-Arzate’s head for no justifiable reason.
Another officer approached from behind the suspect and started hitting Vargas-Arzate’s legs with a metal baton. The unarmed man did not appear to resist or fight back.
In his police report, Booker falsely claimed that Vargas-Arzate reached toward Booker and grabbed the officer by his right leg. Booker also falsely claimed that he punched the suspect in the back of the head because he believed Vargas-Arzate was about to tackle him and possibly gain access to Booker’s firearm.
According to the video, Vargas-Arzate did not attempt to grab Booker’s leg or tackle the officer.
Vargas-Arzate was taken to a hospital and charged with attempted burglary. In July 2016, his lawsuit against Booker and the city was settled.
Last year, Booker retired from the Santa Ana Police Department after approximately 19 years of service. On March 17, 2013, Booker was previously arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.
On Wednesday, Booker was charged with one felony count of deprivation of rights under color of law and two felony counts of falsification of records. If convicted, he could face a statutory maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison.
Shortly after the charges were filed against Booker, the Santa Ana Police Department issued the following statement: “Today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicted a Santa Ana police officer for civil rights violations stemming from an arrest that occurred in June 2014. Santa Ana police officers responded to a call for service regarding a subject attempting to enter a community member’s residence. Officers attempted to take the suspect into custody and a use of force incident occurred. The suspect was arrested for attempted burglary.
“In July 2014, Santa Ana Police Department was made aware of allegations of excessive force and initiated an Internal Affairs administrative investigation. The officer was assigned to desk duty and had to contact with the public.
“In September 2014, the Santa Ana Police Department was notified the FBI was conducting an investigation into the matter to determine whether the use of force constituted a federal criminal violation. The Santa Ana Police Department tolled the Internal Affairs investigation, pending the outcome of the federal investigation.
“The officer in question is no longer an employee with the Santa Ana Police Department. The Santa Ana Police Department has cooperated with the federal investigation and will continue to do so.”
Booker is scheduled to be arraigned on August 12 at the United States District Court in Santa Ana.