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A 25-year-old African-American man is alleging that officers from the Inglewood Police Department and the California Highway Patrol used excessive force in detaining—but not arresting—him while his car was being repossessed on June 27.
Brandon Baines thought he was just going to check to see why the alarm on his Mercedes Benz went off outside his Inglewood apartment around 12:45 a.m. and according to him, what happened next was a traumatic episode.
He put his gun in his holster and when he went downstairs, he saw two men standing by his car ready to repossess it. After some discussion, the men said that they felt threatened by the gun and Baines went back into his house. Baines and his girlfriend returned to talk with the men and noticed one of them was on the phone calling the police.
A few minutes later, he noticed men with flashlights calling him over. He was apprehensive at first but followed their commands and then recognized they were police officers. They told him to put his hands in the air and when Baines asked what was going on, they didn’t respond and told him to place his hands behind his head.
“One of the officers tried to climb the security gate...and I told him that I had a remote and I could open the gate for him,” Baines said. After doing so, he said two to three more officers rushed in front of him as his reassumed his earlier position.
He got on his knees—”the most vulnerable position I could be in,” he said—and while telling the officers that he would follow their orders, one officer grabbed his wrist and twisted his shoulder so tightly that he felt it would break. Baines said that he couldn’t move his body anymore but when the officer told him to stop resisting—which he said he wasn’t—another officer pushed him in the back and he fell to the ground.
Baines said that he briefly put his hands on the ground to hold himself up but the officers, saying that he was resisting arrest, pushed him down. Baines described what happened next.
“By the time I pulled my head up from my tooth being chipped, I feel something hit my back, which was the first stun gun application. Two seconds later, I got hit with another one and I feel myself being electrocuted,” he said.
The voltage of a M26 Taser that police officers carry ranges from 1,500 to 50,000 volts. According to Alfonzo Tucker, a certified instructor with nine years on the Contra Coast Sheriff Department, it should be applied to a suspect in close contact by pressing it against the body, not by darts which Baines experienced.
The officers demanded to roll him back on his stomach and when he did not do fast enough, they grabbed him and forced him into position. When he tried to get up and follow another order, he was forced to his feet and officers twisted his wrists inward and up, an uncomfortable position he demonstrated in the interview.
After being placed in the back of police vehicle, the police told Baines they would search his house and he told them where the gun was. He said the gun was purchased in the 1970s by his father and although records were not available, the police gave it back with no problem.
Despite the ordeal, Baines was eventually released and not arrested, saying that the officers told him this was standard procedure involving someone with a gun although he restated in the interview that the gun was secure in his house before the police arrived.
He added that over 10 officers were on the scene and his girlfriend was too traumatized to speak about it at church this past Sunday.
Baines said that the officers who stunned him were from California Highway Patrol while the remaining officers that were rough with him came from the Inglewood Police Department. According to a meeting with a CHP sergeant, Baines, his brother and Tucker were told that the officers did not have to write a report regarding to using their tasers.
Oliver Baines, a nine-year veteran of the Fresno Police Department, said that most police departments have to generate a report regarding use of force and said “there is no way my department would allow that,” referring to what the sergeant said.
He added that according to police procedure, “There was no need for a suspect to be pushed down when he was being completely compliant the whole time. As long as a suspect is showing willingness to comply, verbal commands should be adequate.”
IPD Sergeant Jeff Steinhoff told Brandon Baines on Sunday that he felt the taser use was not necessary and had he been there, he would not have authorized it. On Monday, an officer who was present at the incident told him that he did not understand why it was applied.
In the 72 hours that followed the incident, Baines said that as a result of his injuries, he could not go to work, lie down or walk without a limp. During the interview, he still showed signs of a limp and had a chipped tooth.
On Tuesday, he retained attorney W. Keith Wyatt, who has represented several clients in similar cases of misconduct in his 27 years with the law firm he shares with fellow senior partners Rickey Ivie and Robert McNeil.
Wyatt said that he is reviewing the statements and has not yet filed any claims for damages as of press time.
Baines said that he never expected this would happen to him, someone who respects law enforcement and is proud of to have a brother as a police officer.
“It was a traumatizing situation,” he said, “I thought as long as you respect them, they would treat you like an ordinary person but it’s very much apparent that it’s not the case.”