Pima County Sheriff's Deputy Seen Tackling, Pinning Down 15-Year-Old Quadruple Amputee

Published: Friday, November 15, 2019 - 3:42pm
Updated: Friday, November 15, 2019 - 4:51pm
Pima County Sheriff's Department
Manuel Van Santen

Video footage has surfaced showing a Pima County sheriff's deputy tackling and pinning down a 15-year-old boy with no arms or legs. The teen lived in a group home near Tucson. 

In September, staff at the group home called police, saying the teenager was being disruptive and had knocked over a trash can.

The deputy is seen pinning the boy and yelling at him, inches from his face. The officer wasn’t wearing a body camera, but another teen who recorded the video presented it to the Pima County Public Defender. Both teens were charged with disorderly conduct, but the charges were later dropped when the video came to light. 

The Pima County Sheriff's Department has identified the deputy as 11-year veteran Deputy Manuel Van Santen. He has been placed on administrative leave as the investigation continues. 

In the video, the officer can be heard cursing at one teen, and slamming another handcuffed teen's head into a wall.

Pima County Public Defender Joel Feinman represents the teens who were charged with disorderly conduct. The teens are being identified to media as Immanuel and C.J. 

“This is a grown man with a badge and a gun assaulting a child with no limbs, for no reason whatsoever,” Feinman said. “It should have never happened, and men with badges and guns shouldn’t behave that way. And if they do behave that way, they shouldn’t have badges and guns.”

Feinman says this goes beyond a case of police brutality and highlights systemic problems in American law enforcement.

“Immanuel himself asked that this video be released,” he said. “Immanuel wanted it to serve as not only warning and a cautionary tale, but a plea for widespread reform. I would hope people look at this video not just as one boy being abused by one police officer acting unprofessionally and violently, but as further evidence that we desperately need widespread criminal justice reform across the country.” 

Arizona state Rep. Jennifer Longdon, who serves on many disability advisory boards, says this whole incident could have been avoided if the group home employee didn't feel the need to involve police. 

"I don't even understand why a group home person thought calling law enforcement because a young boy was yelling was appropriate," Longdon said. "Our situation started there. Law enforcement is being used incorrectly by individuals like that. That's another person who needs to be called to account for how they acted in this instance."

Even so, Longdon questions the law enforcement tactics used in this case. 

"I clearly did not see any de-escalation on the part of the sheriff's deputy," Longdon said. "We clearly need a culture shift, a philosophy shift. I am not anti-cop, but I believe we need to shift the learning philosophy back to peacekeeper rather than this more militarized use of our law enforcement agencies."

The Sheriff’s Department says it’s conducting an internal investigation.

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