Ontario police chief says officers used appropriate tactics in May incident

ONTARIO – Ontario Police Chief Mike Iwai told the Ontario City Council last week that his officers used the correct tactics when they dealt with a man in a medical crisis in May.

Iwai explained the results of an internal review on the incident during the June 11 city council meeting.

He said three Ontario Police Department officers used proper procedure, and not excessive force, during a May 11 encounter near The Body Shop on Southwest Fourth Avenue.

The incident was the focus of a letter from Nyssa City Councilor Roberto Escobedo presented to Ontario councilors last month.

He wrote that he witnessed police pull an elderly man out of his pickup, throw him to the ground and sit on him.

After the man was on the ground, wrote Escobedo, “one of the officers continued to sit on the gentleman for some time.” He said he considered the apparent use of force appeared “unnecessary.”

Iwai explained how the episode unfolded.

Ontario police Sgt. John Laurenson and officers Richard Frazier and Jared Cutler responded to a pickup truck was high centered on a grassy area in a parking lot.

Iwai said Frazier “attempted verbal communication” with the driver but he did not respond. The truck, said Iwai, was still running and in gear.

“After approximately 28 seconds the male (driver) started jerking his arms rapidly, leaning toward Frazier,” said Iwai.

At about the same time, Laurenson went to the driver’s side of the truck, leaned in and unfastened the driver’s seatbelt.

“When he was jerking his arms, Officer Frasier believed he was trying to get the vehicle into a different gear. He continued to moan and resist as officers tried to assist him,” said Iwai.

Frasier then pushed the driver toward the driver’s side door.

At that point, Laurenson pulled the driver out of the vehicle and onto the ground where he was handcuffed.

At the time, Iwai said, the police officers believed the man was impaired by alcohol.

Iwai said the man was “double-cuffed” which provides a wider span and took pressure off the man’s shoulders and arms.

Iwai told the council at no time was the man’s airway obstructed.

“No knees were on his back, shoulder or neck area,” said Iwai.

An officer did have his knee on the “upper left leg, buttocks area” of the man, said Iwai.

Iwai said the man was on the ground “because he actively resisted.”

After four minutes, said Iwai, officers stood the man up. A minute later an ambulance arrived and treated the man for a diabetic episode.

Iwai said the amount of force used was a “custody technique.”

“There were no kicks or strikes. There was no deadly force,” he said.

Iwai said Laurenson’s action to place the man on the ground was “justified.”
Iwai said from what officers knew at the time, they followed police department policy.

Iwai said the officers did laugh at one point after the incident but that was not directed at the driver. Instead one officer was joking with the other about his driving ability as they prepared to move the truck.

Iwai said that after reviewing the video he did hear two officers use a profane word. Iwai said he counseled both officers regarding using cuss words.

Melendrez, who attended the meeting via zoom, asked Iwai if a diabetic emergency counts as resisting arrest.

“We are not mind readers and had no idea he was having a diabetic emergency,” Iwai said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

Ontario police open internal review regarding use of force incident

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