TUCSON, AZ — Riot police brutally handled a crowd following a NCAA basketball game, leading to multiple state-sanctioned assaults caught on video.
On March 29th, 2014, Tucson officers held a heavy presence on University Boulevard, which was the site of some unruliness amongst the young people gathered in the street.
One officer — clad in a gas mask and riot gear — was caught on film on that evening performing multiple acts of unprovoked aggression on students in the area. It was Tucson PD Sergeant Joel Mann, an 18-year-veteran of the force.
Sgt. Mann shoved a female pedestrian so hard that she flew into a metal bench on the sidewalk.
The woman, Christina Gardilcic, had been doing nothing other than walking along the sidewalk toward a group of students congregating up ahead.
“We were just walking behind on the sidewalk and next thing I know I was just on a bench,” Ms. Gardilcic told ABC News. “My feet were… up in the air and I just got hit. It really happened very fast. I got up fast ’cause I was kind of in shock.”
“What happened to me, I consider excessive force,” Gardilcic added in the ABC interview. “I had no idea I was doing anything wrong. If I was, and he physically shoved me and I fell, I could have been really hurt.”
View a bystander’s recording of Sgt. Mann’s the assault on Christina Gardilcic below. A helmet-cam video shot from Mann’s perspective is also available.
A witness, Andrew Brown, was “really disturbed” by what he saw while standing just feet away from Ms. Gardilcic when she was shoved. He told 3TV News that the woman “was hanging out in front of a shop just talking about how she wanted to get out of there… I don’t think that girl had any ill intent and was trying to get to her car. It was a totally unnecessary violent event and it never should have happened.”
Sgt. Mann used the “just following orders” defense to justify his aggressive behavior. Representing the officer, attorney Mike Storie told KVOA that “Sgt. Mann had to react instantly” to prevent any more people from approaching the crowd, as the cops had apparently been instructed.
Storie added that his client felt “very comfortable with the fact that he followed training.”
When the video of Sgt. Mann shoving Ms. Gardilcic went viral on the internet, the video from the officer’s helmet camera was reviewed, and revealed a second assault on the same night.
Sgt. Mann had also approached a couple sitting in a dining area on the sidewalk in front of Campus Athletic. He marched up, and without hesitation or provocation, shoved a woman standing next to the table across the lap of a seated man. Then Sgt. Mann repeatedly shoved both individuals repeatedly with his baton, causing the man to fall down into some chairs.
That video can be viewed from Sgt. Mann’s perspective here:
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Sgt. Joel Mann will not be prosecuted for his brutal treatment of students on March 29th.
A police review board decided that shoving Christina Gardilcic helplessly into a bench was “justified” behavior for the officer, given the nature of the gathering.
The prosecutor noted that Sgt. Mann was an “overzealous” enforcer, but lacked criminal intent. And since his aggressive acts were being performed in pursuance of his duties, he would not be criminally prosecuted.
However, the review board said that Sgt. Mann’s “use of force on three individuals during two separate incidents was inappropriate, and should be referred to his chain of command for review of potential policy violations and disposition.”