Press Coverage: Police Union Critical of Press Conference

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Police union critical of Gascón press conference

5 officers questioned about disposal of fetus

Key Exert:

Sgt. Fabian Cota, Mesa Police Association president:

“On the surface would appear to be wrong,” Cota said. “We don’t know if this was a single officer’s decision or if that came from above. We just don’t know a lot of things.”

Mesa Fire Assistant Chief Dan Stubbs said Wednesday that fire officials were also investigating the incident to determine whether fire personnel acted properly.

The officers were identified as Kristen Johnson, Nicholas Webster, Robert Buquo, Glenn Pearson and Lt. Lynn Young. All of the officers were put on administrative reassignment, which could include being sent home or working from a desk.

An internal investigation also has been opened into a citizen complaint against Webster.

Gascón said that on May 16 Webster was seen on Mesa jail surveillance video with Sean Okoli, 21, who he was transporting to the jail to be photographed and released on suspicion of urinating in public and jaywalking.

The video shows Webster grab Okoli behind the neck and slam his head down onto the trunk of the car, where he was held for several seconds. In the video Webster then lifted the man from the car and slammed him against a chain-link fence several times before a jail officer came out.

Okoli filed a civil complaint May 19 against Webster, who has been with the department five years.

Although the video is a useful tool in this incident, Cota said without audio and knowledge of what was said between the officer and Okoli, it’s hard to determine what sparked that incident.

“Officers have due process rights too – that may come as a surprise to some people,” Cota said. “We don’t want their rights diminished. We want a good, thorough investigation to establish the facts.”