Internal affairs investigation found officers should not have used force on Jose Deleon in May 2021

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A San Diego man who suffers from schizophrenia is suing the city of San Diego after he says police officers punched and tased him as he was walking down a downtown sidewalk in May 2021.

In a newly filed federal lawsuit, Jose Deleon says he was at a downtown trolley station just after 10:30 p.m. when he saw officers approaching. The officers, according to a subsequent internal affairs investigation, were responding to a call that two Hispanic males were harassing people.

Deleon said he grabbed the beer he had bought and began walking down Market Street.

Body cam footage, released by the San Diego Police Department, shows officers ordering Deleon to stop walking.

Deleon, whose speech was slurred, asked officers why they were stopping him.

Officers told Deleon to put his things down and put his hands up. At the same time, another officer walked behind Deleon and tried to grab Deleon's arms.

Deleon snatched his arm away.

"Don't touch me," said Deleon.

Officers moved closer.

"No, don't touch me."

One officer then grabbed Deleon in a chokehold and punched him in the side of the head.

Another officer fired his taser at Deleon, the barbs lodging into Deleon's midsection.

After the arrest, officers interviewed Deleon in the hospital.

"I was afraid," said Deleon when asked why he started walking away. "I'm schizo, and I was afraid."

Deleon told officers that all he wanted to do was go home, and that was why he was walking away from them.

In a November 2021 internal affairs report of the incident, investigators found the use of force to be excessive, stating, in part, "the [punch] used by Officer Colbert was not within the San Diego Police Department's Policy and Procedures Use of Force and [was] unreasonable."

According to Deleon's lawsuit, Deleon was treated for a head injury after his arrest. He was booked in jail on resisting arrest charges, a charge that the District Attorney later dropped.

Shortly after getting released, Deleon returned to the hospital where, according to the lawsuit, "he was diagnosed with an Acute Kidney Injury, and Acute Diverticulitis due to the blunt force trauma" from the arrest.

Marc Kohnen and Dante Pride represent Deleon. Kohnen says that the police department's own internal investigation proves that the force used on his client was excessive. "Police departments exist for the protection of the communities they serve and should be responsible for treating their assigned community and its citizens with dignity, fairness, and respect," said Kohnen. "When SDPD Officers punched Mr. DeLeon in the head while he was already on the ground, not engaged in assaultive conduct against the officers, this use of force was NOT within the permissible scope of force."

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