Antonio Martinez was walking to his father’s bakery on the 900 block of Postal Street in Vista Tuesday evening when officers were responding to a domestic violence call. An officer spotted the 21-year-old and thought he looked suspicious. He had a hood over his head and his hands were clenched in his pockets. When the deputy told him to stop, he didn’t listen.
Melissa Mejia was working nearby at her mom’s shop at the time.
“[The deputy] pepper-sprayed him first because he didn’t get on the floor,” Mejia said. “We got closer, he was hitting him with a baton on the head and my mom and I were yelling at him, ‘no stop.'”
Minutes later three other deputies arrived on scene.
“At least 40 people were screaming, ‘he has down syndrome, stop, stop,’ as soon as the deputies got out, they pulled out their guns and they’re like, get the ‘F’ back or you guys are all getting arrested,'” Mejia said.
Jan Caldwell with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department said it’s not until Martinez was handcuffed and put in the back of the car, officers realized he had down syndrome.
“We were trying to make sure he wasn’t the subject of the domestic call,” Caldwell said.
Officers rushed Martinez to Tri-City hospital to be checked for injuries, she said.
“Questions have come in, does the deputy feel badly, yes, he does,” said Caldwell. “He is not on administrative leave.”
Martinez’s family said their son was still ticketed for resisting an officer, but that was revoked a day later when the officer came to apologize.
“We are sorry that this happened but we are going to look at it further. We are going to examine it carefully,” said Caldwell.
The deputy involved has been a part of San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for about four months. Before that he spent eight years in Northern California as an officer. Officials said he is very experienced.
Martinez’s family contacted an attorney saying they want to stop this from happening to another person.