SALINAS, Calif. — Witnesses are wondering if Salinas police used excessive force when arresting a man who had just shoved his mother into a busy street.
A witness used a cellphone to record multiple Salinas Police Department officers beating a man with batons on North Main Street near Bernal Drive Friday. Officers repeatedly hit 28-year-old Jose Velasco with batons and shot him with Tasers.
Officers said they were called to North Main Street because Velasco was screaming, running into traffic, jumping on cars, and attacking his mother. Velasco’s family said he suffers from mental illness.
Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin described Velasco as “a violent man assaulting his own mother.”
When asked if the witness’ cellphone video concerned him, McMillin answered, “Absolutely.”
“The video alone is horrific and inflammatory,” the police chief said. “Anybody who looks at that video without context would have concerns, because it looks terrible.”
The first officers who arrived on scene said they saw Velasco throw his mother into traffic in front of moving cars.
An SPD press release stated, “Two officers responded and saw Jose Velasco slamming the female’s body into the pavement of the northbound lane of North Main Street while heavy traffic was passing by.
As the officers tried to get Velasco off of his mother by pulling him away, Velasco began to violently resist and attacked the officers.”
The press release continued, “Two Taser deployments were attempted on Velasco, neither having any effect on him. As other officers arrived on scene, Velasco continued to struggle and resist, eventually needing five officers and the use of batons to control and place him into handcuffs.”
As Velasco was being transported to Natividad Medical Center, he allegedly grabbed a police officer and paramedic through the rails of a gurney and attempted to bite them while handcuffed.
He had to be chemically restrained while at the hospital. He was treated for injuries including a fractured leg, and was later booked into the Monterey County Jail.
McMillin said Velasco admitted he was smoking methamphetamine and drinking alcohol the day of the incident.
“If he is mentally ill, I would submit that methamphetamine and alcohol intoxication on top of that is all a recipe for disaster,” McMillin said.
McMillin said the confrontation between Velasco and police escalated from verbal commands, to use of Tasers, to batons.
“He was incredibly strong because of the methamphetamine,” the chief said.
McMillin said his department’s first duty is to protect the community from dangerous people.
“If people watch this video and get upset because they believe that the police were beating up a homeless guy, I would argue that they are misinformed,” he said. “This was a very violent man beating a woman in a public street, tearing weapons from police officers’ belts, trying to bite them, trying to headbutt them.”
Velasco was booked into jail on charges including assault with a deadly weapon, assault on an officer causing injury, resisting arrest, and violating parole.