Man with down syndrome beaten by deputy

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VISTA, Calif. – A North County man with special needs is left badly bruised Thursday after a run-in with sheriff deputies, a family told Fox 5.

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.

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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Martinez’s family said their son was still ticketed for resisting an officer, but that was revoked a day later when the officer came to apologize.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.

48 comments

  • lilia

    administrative leave? wow its a shame when an officer of peace acts like this all the officer is doing is making all other peace officers look like the bad guys you should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Johnnybbaby

    Lilia: Since you weren't there that night how about waiting until all of the information is gathered before making a decision to hang this Police Officer.

    You better hope that if you ever went to trial for something, you didn't end up with a few misinformed Monday Morning Quarterbacks like yourself making a decision on whether to find you guilty or not.

        • sochocnana

          He's critizing not commenting. coment on the article not on the people. The point of these is to voice your opinion and comment about the article not the people making the comments.

    • Johnathan Singleton

      Really, based upon the facts; reported by the media but also those reported by the Sheriffs department them self's, they admitted that this all was a huge mistake. One that should have never been occurred; so for god sakes let the person have there opinion instead of opening your mouth and criticizing others.

      Such mistakes should not be allowed to happen, I hope the family seeks an attorney and files a civil lawsuit since it appears that the "officer" wont be reprimanded by internal affairs. We pay there salaries, we are the taxpayers they are here to protect and serve us, not to discriminate and attack a person for no reason, even after knowing that the person is of no mental capacity.

      Shame on that officer and shame on the San Diego Sheriffs department. I'm sure you would render a different opinion if you had son/daughter with any mental retardation and have him or her brutally attacked and beaten by a peace officer based on "NO GROUNDS".

    • thePeacepipe

      so im guessing by your comment that no citizens ever go to court and get falsely convicted of crimes because officers were the "misinformed Monday Morning Quarterbacks like yourself making a decision on whether to find you guilty or not"

  • les

    lilia would prefer that our law enforcement officers did nothing for fear they might offend someone….people make mistakes all the time and law enforcement officers are still people….no one wants it to happen but we train these men to defend…you and I weren't there . Too make an instant decision based on little facts is just the same mistake the officer made. if it was wrong for the officer it is wrong of you also!

    • sochocnana

      The problem les…yes people including police make mistakes; but non law enforcement people are held accountable, and are punished because it's a crime. When law enforcement make mistakes, they get to say, "I'm sorry", and drive on. According to the report, there were witnesses….screaming at the deputies that the boy had DS; but instead of stepping back and thinking about it, their response was to Threaten the concerned citizens. Of course this is just what the eye witnesses who were there said. They could be lying…like you said we weren't there. But there were people there who witnessed it.

      • les

        they get to be sued too!! and when they are sued it is us the public that really pays you know…when a person makes a move that is suspicious is it the officers responsibility to ask if the person has any mental or physical problems before trying to detain them? when a person fights back are they supposed to diagnose any illness's before restraining them? you want a perfect world and there is no such thing! Police officers aren't Dr's

        • RM12

          IF the citizen is not in the process of committing a crime the officer has zero right to beat him. A person not being "compliant" to an officers commands is NOT a reason to be pepper sprayed and beaten. And yes an officer does have an absolute obligation to investigate the condition of the person before beating them. You sound like an officer yourself, making excuses for an uneducated thug with a badge

        • Get a Clue

          And the police are also paid by us to PROTECT us. Stop trying to make excuses for the cop. He messed up and should be suspended. Just because they are cops shouldn’t mean that they are excused from explicable behavior!!!

    • Chris

      Hmmm, so beating someone in the head with a baton is just a mistake. Perhaps someone should beat you in the head with a baton, after all it's just a mistake.

  • beebee

    “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,”

    The deputies pulled out their guns and said get the "f" back….?" Just because people were trying to get the message across that the young man had Down Syndrome???! Because the young man was wearing a hoodie? Had his hands in his pockets?? Was the young man pointing ANYTHING at these so-called experienced law enforcement officers? A stick, a toy gun, a broken bottle, a knife? These "officers" could not tell this young man had Down Syndrome? What the "f?"!!!!

    Just another example of cops out of control just because the young man "looked suspicious?" No wonder some people have lost respect for police officers. In this instance, this was NOT about protecting the public as law enforcement officers are SUPPOSED to do. It was an out-and-out example of stereotyping someone for how he looked, what he was wearing and how he was walking. Nothing more.

    As for Les's comment "we train these men to defend…." And just what or whom were they defending from this young man? And police captain Rodi's comment "we made a mistake" comes under my heading of "no s..t!"

    Signed –
    Absolutely Outraged

    • les

      in a hostile mob are they supposed to believe what the crowd is saying? they may be saying that for the sake of getting their friend off..this is why you have S.O.P we don't live in a perfect world..the young man is still alive ,and he will win a lawsuit big time…what you want is for the cop to not do anything till he knows for sure..and sometimes waiting can mean life or death…I can say that if a cop did nothing you would bitch as much about that too!!

      • sochocnana

        Where does it say anything about a hostile mob? Police are trained to subdue without beating! The boy had NO WEAPONS, and he had Down Syndrome, which anyone looking at the photo of the boy can tell.

  • StopPoliceviolence

    "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". Since when is it suspicious wearing a hood and walking with your hands in your pockets suspicious??? Is that in the San Diego Sheriff's SOP's?

  • Mike

    so let me get this straight. Deputies were responding to a DV call. and because hes walking with a hoodie and hands in his pockets. They thought he was the DV suspect??? so they pepper spray and beat an innocent citizen who isnt suspected of commenting a crime??? then cite him for resisting arrest when there was no cause for arrest?? has to be more to this story

    • Mike

      I wonder if they ever made it to the DV call since they sent 3 units to cover the deputy beating a citizen.. most likely he will resign and get pick up at another department.. thats the way they cover each other.. he needs to be charged and not be a cop anymore..

  • RM12

    Les.. just found this little tidbit about your honorable police deputy… his name form another story on this incident is Jeffery Guy… he has been an officer in California for some time.. in this story about repeated use of force he is mentioned "A Mercury News investigation identified Marfia among more than a dozen officers who repeatedly used force in recent cases where resisting arrest was the primary charge. A review of one year of resisting-arrest cases turned up 10 officers, including Marfia, using force in four or more incidents. Another was Steven Payne Jr., the officer seen on a controversial video Advertisement shocking a San Jose State University student with his Taser gun. A third was Jeffrey Guy, one of the officers who used force on mechanic Scott Wright in an incident described last month in the newspaper." the whole article can be found here . .http://policelink.monster.com/news/articles/129386-repeated-use-of-force-questioned-in-california... it really is not that difficult to find the thugs within the police force… abuse of power is one of the greatest evils in our world…this guy is evil.

  • Sendhimtojail

    According to les, its in the Sheriff's dept S.O.P's. Whip ass first ask questions later. "the young man is still alive".

  • Toastenbutter

    What kind of animals work for the San Diego County Sherriff's department? Cant they hire intelligent people? The poor innocent person he beat is smarter then the stupid deputy! DISGUSTING!

  • Concerned citizen

    I saw this thing go down first hand. Yeah the kid was walking down the street with his hoody on and hands in his pockets because it was about 43 degrees outside. He did nothing wrong and did understand what was happening. The cop told him to stop twice from his car the got out said I told you to stop and then maced him in the face and pulled out his batton and started to strike the boy in his legs. Then when he fell to the ground screaming the officer then struck him more in the upper body and on his sides. Then another cop came and dropped a knee on his back and ground his face into the asphalt. The crowd was yelling stop he has down syndome leave him alone the entire time this was happening. The cops rolled up in force and threatened to tazer people and arrest people for obstruction if they didn't leave. This was a clear case of profiling people and unlawful stop and then police brutality. Then the police chief offers and apoligy and a turkey to the family. What an insult.

  • TimB

    This man should be made to push a pencil for the remainder of his career and should not be allowed to wear mace or a weapon of any sort. The rest of the officers who threatened to taze folks for telling them to stop need some serious public awareness training.

  • Buddybear

    4 whole months on the job! How about the cop's threats to all the people who were trying to tell these thugs that their victim had downs? Drawing their weapons on bystanders, if only the money that this family will be paid could come out of the cops salaries instead of taxpayers!

  • GI JOE

    Scumbag cop we have them all over the place yes we have good cops also but they stick there necks out for these punk cops,,,thes coos who hit this poor kid with DS need to be fired allnofvthem and charges need to be in place for these coos also there captain needs to be fired he's in charge of his troops,,we need to bring the family to congress so we can get results

  • Cops

    That's why people hate cops my wife cried when she seen this story ,,,citizen screaming he has down syndrome and cops beating this kid who stand 4 feet why? Because cops don't care they get away with murder I have so much hate for theses cops and the captain who wants to cover this up by giving the family a turkey,,,if the family was wealthy would that scumbag captain try and give them a turkey no he assumed the family were a bunch of dum mexicans ,,fire them all and give the cops a trail find them guilty and put them in jail so I can break the law and get my hands on these punks,,,you better put these pigs in PC if they end up in jail inmates love killing bullies

  • John Smith

    Unfortunately, this happens all the time and will continue forever. Police are enforcers of laws created by man and over the years have become militaristic. They use SWAT, have assault weapons and since they swap stories of their daily experiences they have developed a fraternity mentality. The so-called Blue code of silence. Yes, there are policemen who are honorable, sadly they are mixed with trigger happy cowboys.

  • PJyep

    It saddens me to see all you Americans in the "home of the brave" acting like cowards and trying to justify what was clearly an unprovoked attack on a disabled man. They wanted to make sure he wasn't the subject of the domestic violence call…. by being violent theselves? And you believe that? Morons, no wonder you're a laughing stock.

  • Mariah Lopez

    What a shame !!! Honestly that man behind that uniform doesn’t deserves to be call an officer.. With all respect anyone can clearly see this young man has ds.. Did the officer not get trained or what ?? I believe in justice and there’s have got to be justice for this angel of god because to me any down syndrome child is an angel of god …

  • Joy

    As someone with a sister who has downs, this story absolutely appalls me. Stereotyping and profiling at its absolute worse. Police officers need to be smart enough and trained well enough to know that sometimes people are prevented from hearing or responding to their commands. That includes mental handicaps. If someone can't respond to your commands, step one isn't pepper spray. This kid wasn't coming at them. He wasn't attacking them. He was walking with his hands in his pockets. Downs isn't some invisible disorder. You can see it on a persons face, but you have to take the time to actually look at the person… something this officer obviously didn't even bother to do. Did the kid even match the DV suspect's description?! Aside from being Hispanic, I bet he didn't. They saw his dark skin and assumed he was some thug. Disgusting. And the fact that he's not on administrative leave sickens me. That says to me that they don't even realize or care that this officer was completely in the wrong. I hope they pay through the nose for this.

  • Chris

    What a piece of shit cop. I’m so tired of hearing cops beating someone. The people need to rise up when shit like this happened.. 40 people stood around yelling that he had Down syndrome and didn’t do shit? Wow! We need to teach these fuckin pigs a lesson.

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