Police officers used a Taser-type stun gun on a man who allegedly violently resisted arrest during a massive brawl outside the Zen Lounge last Friday, according to a police spokeswoman.
But according to the man who was shocked with the stun gun, and his friend, who says she saw the majority of the incident, Mountain View police used excessive force on a man who was simply trying to go home after a birthday party.
The fracas erupted shortly after 1:30 a.m. on May 18, and quickly got out of hand, said Liz Wylie, public information officer with the Mountain View Police Department.
According to Wylie, the May 18 incident got so wild that police from three nearby cities were called, even after every officer on duty in Mountain View had already arrived. At the height of the melee, officers estimated that about 200 people were engaged with or watching multiple fights in the parking lot behind Zen, in the breezeway leading to Castro Street and out in front of the club.
"Dozens upon dozens" of mostly male patrons were yelling and trying to instigate confrontations with police and other patrons, Wylie said. "It was essentially a mob. This was way more than we could handle, so we asked for assistance."
The mutual aid request brought in seven officers came from Sunnyvale, four from Palo Alto and two from Los Altos.
When there were only a handful of officers on the scene, Wylie said police targeted a man they believed played a key role in instigating the alcohol-fueled donnybrook and attempted to place him under arrest -- with the hope that taking him out of the equation might help quell the brouhaha. "If you can find the leader, so to speak, and take them away from the scene, then the whole crowd tends to calm down."
According to the witness, who did not want to give her name, she had left the bar after celebrating her birthday when officers grabbed her friend, Leshawn James.
Wylie said that the man the police were attempting to arrest put up a violent fight -- throwing his elbows and attempting to head-butt the officers. And although the sight of officers making an arrest may have prompted some to leave, Wylie continued, those who did not flee became increasingly hostile toward the police.
James told the Voice he may have struggled to get out of the officers' arms, but only because he felt they had no reason to grab him in the first place. At no time did officers tell him to stop or that he was under arrest before they grabbed him, he said.
"I don't see how I could elbow him when there was one officer holding one arm and there was another officer holding another arm," James said. "I did not try to head-butt them."
James acknowledges that shouted obscenities at the police, but said he did not instigate any fights. "That's my free speech," he said, adding that all he did was tell the police they had no reason to arrest him. The next thing he can remember, James said, he was being grabbed from behind and slammed into a car.
"There was no reason for there to be five cops on him," said his friend who witnessed the incident. "He wasn't jerking his arms around, throwing any punches or anything like that. Leshawn was not fighting back in any kind of way." Once the officers managed to get James down, she said, one "cop Tasered him a good five times on the back and then moved the taser to the back of his neck."
According to Wylie, the man elbowed one of the officers in the head, causing an injury with concussion-like symptoms. The struggle went to the ground and one of the officers deployed his stun gun. The initial shot was not effective, and James continued to struggle, so the officer tried twice more. After the third charge the man finally relented, and officers were able to get him into cuffs.
James said he isn't sure whether the first shot was effective or not, nor could he remember much of the subsequent jolts. All he said he remembers was trying to scream for them to stop.
Even with the man policed believed to be the main instigator in cuffs, Wylie said, the incident was far from over. While the police were attempting to subdue the man, a crowd of "about 100 people remained at the scene and formed a flash mob around the three officers and the sergeant."
Struggle for stun gun
Another man emerged from the crowd, and, according to the report, tried to snatch the stun gun out of the sergeant's hand. After a brief, unsuccessful struggle, the man fled on foot. Wylie said the sergeant was familiar with the man, and had seen him numerous times at Zen.
The officer later tracked down Ethan Mosley, a 22-year-old Mountain View man, arresting him on charges of attempting to disarm a police officer on May 19 at about 8:50 p.m., near the man's home in the 4600 block of North Shoreline Boulevard.
At the scene, police arrested James, a 22-year-old Sunnyvale resident, on charges of battery on an officer causing injury, resisting arrest and being drunk in public.
A 23-year-old Fremont resident, Delroy Parson was arrested on charges of interfering with an investigation.
Mosley's mother, Wendy Uher, told the Voice that her son had not tried to take the officer's weapon. Rather, she explained, the crowd pushed her son forward and he came in contact with the sergeant before being pushed back.
Wylie said that any time force is used by an officer in the department, there is a full investigation to ensure that nothing improper occurred.