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When four Stockton police finally caught up to a Black teen who’d led them on a brief car chase last December, they weren’t willing to let the young man’s alleged crime go unpunished.
“I’m not resisting,” 17-year-old Devin Carter told the officers, according to police body camera audio, with his hands allegedly on the wheel.
“Yes, you are,” the cops responded. They then pulled him out of the car and beat him so badly that they left him with two black eyes and a boot print-shaped bruise on his face. Carter balled up into a fetal position, but officers continued to punch and stomp on him, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the family earlier this year.
Two of the officers involved——Michael Stiles and Omar Villapudua—were fired in March, and on Friday, a grand jury indicted them for assault by a public officer and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. Despite the increased scrutiny on policing and tougher laws in California, charges outside of fatal incidents remain rare.
The grand jury decided against charging the other two officers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We’re quite pleased that at least two of the officers were indicted with criminal charges,” the Carters’ civil rights attorney, John Burris, said in a statement after the grand jury’s decision last week. Burris also represented Rodney King in his 1991 civil case against the Los Angeles Police Department.
“This case cries out for criminal prosecution and conviction because these officers were like renegades,” Burris added.
Last April, Burris released body-camera footage of Carter’s encounter with police. On Dec. 30, 2020, police tried to pull Carter over after they caught him allegedly driving erratically and exceeding speeds of 100 mph in North Stockton. But Carter didn’t immediately pull over and led officers on a brief chase, reportedly about three minutes long.
Carter would later say that he didn’t pull over as he feared being confronted by police and being hurt.
"When I was getting beat the way I was, all that was going through my mind was all of this Black Lives Matter and George Floyd, and there’s a possibility I could die,” the teen told ABC 10 last April.
The officers in pursuit of the teen used a PIT maneuver—bumping their vehicle into another vehicle in hopes of stopping the car—which caused the teen to spin out. Though the move can be employed safely, it can also cause harm to the driver if not done under the right circumstances. As many as 30 people have died after the maneuver was used by police, according to the Washington Post.
When the officers approached the vehicle, the teen can be heard telling officers he’s not resisting and screaming in pain as officers continue to curse at him, according to shaky body camera video.
The Stockton Police Department did not immediately return VICE News’ request for comment, but a spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times Friday that the department supports the grand jury’s decision in a statement last week.
The local police union, the Stockton Police Officers Association, on the other hand defended the actions of the officers in a statement on Facebook.
“Mr. Carter’s actions and his actions alone caused the involved officers to react in a manner in which they did to end Mr. Carter’s vehicular violence, affect his arrest and keep the citizens of our community safe,” the statement says.
The two officers are scheduled to appear in court in November, according to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office.
"It’s just the start of a new beginning,” Carter’s father George told reporters during a press conference Friday. “And the city of Stockton has taken a step toward making things right."