published Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Surveillance tape shows police punching suspect

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Surveillance video from a private residence appears to show Southern California police officers punching a suspect who fled arrest and hitting him in the legs with a baton.

Edgar Vargas Arzate, 27, ran away from Santa Ana officers responding to a burglary call but they caught up with him in a private yard, The Orange County Register reported Saturday.

Arzate isn't visible on screen for most of the silent, one-minute clip, and it's unclear what he is doing.

One officer appears to punch him six times as they attempt to handcuff him. Another officer can be seen swinging a baton at his legs as he lies on the ground.

The June 20 incident is the subject of an internal investigation, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, a police spokesman.

Officers were aware of the surveillance camera the night of the incident but couldn't get a copy for several weeks, so the investigation only recently began, he said.

Arzate, who was hospitalized, has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted burglary, battery of a police officer, resisting arrest and tampering with a vehicle. His public defenders could not be reached Saturday, when county offices are closed, and did not immediately reply to emails seeking comment.

The video was recorded by security cameras in the home of Miriam Grajales, who said one officer began striking Arzate after he dropped to the ground, the Register reported.

"He started hitting him hard, with anger," Grajales said. "The guy was yelling, 'Help me! Help me!'"

Arzate's mother believes her son, who has struggled with drug abuse and has a criminal record stretching to 2005, was high that day and fled from police out of paranoia.

"Yes, arrest and punish him, but why did he hit him?" Olivia Arzate said.

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