PHOENIX – Police in suburban Buckeye were under fire Friday when a video was posted online showing a grandfather on the floor of a Walmart store with a bloody face after police said he was subdued trying to shoplift during a chaotic rush for discounted video games.
The video, posted on YouTube, shows 54-year-old Jerald Allen Newman unconscious and covered in blood after a police officer took him to the ground Thursday night.
Officers in the video are shown trying to sop up blood as outraged customers yell expletives and say "that's police brutality" and "he wasn't doing anything."
"Are you sure that was necessary for shoplifting?" said one shopper. "Why would you throw him down so hard?"
In a police report that redacted the names of officers and witnesses, Newman's wife and other witnesses said he was just trying to help his grandson after the boy was trampled by shoppers, and only put a video game in his waistband to free his hands to help the boy.
Larry Hall, assistant chief of Buckeye police, said Newman was resisting arrest and it appeared the officer acted within reason.
Hall did not immediately release the name of the officer, who was hired off-duty by Walmart with five other officers to deal with the large crowd the store anticipated.
Hall said a Walmart employee alerted the officer involved that Newman had put a video game in his waistband, and that the officer approached Newman and started to arrest him.
When he had handcuffs on one of Newman's wrists, Hall said Newman told the officer, "I'm not going to jail," and started pulling away and flailing.
Hall said Newman continued resisting and the officer decided to do a leg sweep and take him to the ground.
"Unfortunately, the suspect landed on his head," Hall said.
The officer involved wrote in the police report that he yelled at Newman to "stop resisting!" before deciding to take him to the ground.
"The store was incredibly crowded, and I was concerned about other customers' safety and possibly getting involved," he wrote. "I then utilized a leg sweep with my right leg as I pulled down with my arms to take Jerald to the ground to better affect the arrest and protect the other shoppers."
The report said that Newman's grandson was treated and released for his injuries by firefighters at the scene.
Hall said an administrative review will be conducted to assess the officer's use of force, but it appeared to be justified.
"The officer didn't lift the guy over his head and slam him to the ground," Hall said. "He used a minimum amount of force, the suspect resisted arrest, and the officer actually could have escalated his use of force. But he didn't. He used his hands to take the suspect into custody."
An ambulance took Newman to the hospital, where he got four stitches for a cut on the left side of his forehead. His nose was also bloodied but not broken, Hall said.
Newman was then booked into the Maricopa County jail on suspicion of shoplifting and resisting arrest.
The police report describes a chaotic scene around a discounted video game stand at the Walmart as customers were made to wait until a 10 p.m. release.
About 200 people surrounded the stand and inched closer and closer despite officers warning them to stay back.
"I observed the crowd rush in and attack the cardboard displays with video games flying through the air and the cardboard displays being thrown around and broken completely down flat on the ground," one officer wrote in the report.
Another officer described seeing a man get trampled and helping him to safety, while another officer saw a woman walking away from the stand with a young girl who was crying and holding her mouth in pain.
One customer reported that people yanked three video games from his hands, leaving him empty-handed.
One witness told police that he saw Newman put a game under his shirt and try to get his grandson out of the area, but Newman appeared to just be trying to get to safety without someone grabbing the video game out of his hands.
Police found Newman's 8- or 9-year-old grandson crying after the incident and turned him over to his grandmother, who police described as hysterical.
"The wife was so upset and told me Jerald was just trying to protect his grandson that got trampled in the crowd and just placed a video game under his shirt while grabbing his grandson to get out of the crowd," wrote one officer.