Glendale, AZ – A prison inmate is suing the Glendale Police Department for repeatedly tasing him during a traffic stop in 2017 (video below).
During the altercation, 39-year-old Johnny Wheatcroft refused to cooperate with officers, and at one point reached into a backpack before his wife struck one of the officers in the head with a bag full of unopened soda cans, bodycam footage showed.
Police said that the hit rendered one of the officers unconscious, KPRC reported.
According to the federal lawsuit, Wheatcroft experienced “devastating injuries and emotional trauma” during his arrest, and his wife and children were left with “severe psychological damage” from witnessing the altercation, KPRC reported.
The encounter occurred on July 26, 2017, after Glendale Police Officers Mark Lindsey and Matt Schneider observed the driver of a Ford Taurus violate a traffic law, the department said in a press release, according to KPRC.
The vehicle pulled into a hotel parking spot, and the officers spotted the front seat passenger reaching “down below the seat into a backpack” as they approached.
That passenger was later identified as Wheatcroft.
“Don’t reach in your bag, man,” an officer told him at one point during the stop.
The officer asked the adults in the vehicle for their identification, then told the driver that he needs to use his turn signal in the future, bodycam footage showed.
Wheatcroft said that he had his identification, but that he wasn’t going to hand it over.
“Why am I even being asked?” he questioned. “I have it on me, but I don’t have to give it to you. I mean, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The officer told Wheatcroft that he could also be taken to the police department to be fingerprinted if he did not want to comply with the request.
Wheatcroft then leaned forward in his seat, telling the officer to “relax,” as the officer opened Wheatcroft’s car door.
“I don’t have nothin,’” he said, as the officer allegedly caught him hiding something near his seat and grabbed onto his upper right arm.
“I don’t want you stuffing anything down in between the seat like you’re doing,” he told him, as Wheatcroft put one foot out onto the pavement.
“Relax. Keep your foot in there,” the officer said, taking an open soda can from the suspect’s hand.
But Wheatcroft kept his foot planted outside the car, and began scanning around while arguing that he did nothing wrong.
The officer then drew his Taser and placed it against Wheatcroft’s shoulder.
“Here’s the deal,” he said. “You tense up, I’m gonna...Listen to me. Relax your arm.”
He then asked Wheatcroft if he planned to fight, and Wheatcroft told him he did not.
"For the safety of themselves and those around them, including the minor children, the officers attempted to remove Mr. Wheatcroft from the vehicle so they could maintain a safe eye on him for the duration of the traffic stop as well as conduct a pat down for weapons," the department’s statement said, according to KPRC.
The officer re-holstered his Taser, then began moving Wheatcroft’s arm behind him, bodycam footage showed.
The suspect immediately began to wince and complain.
“He’s gonna fight, dude,” the officer alerted his partner. “Get your Taser out.”
The officer maintained control of Wheatcroft’s right arm, while he and the suspect continued to argue over whether or not he was resisting.
But bodycam footage showed Wheatcroft struggling to pull his right arm towards himself, which prompted one of the officers to shove his head forward so they could pull him from the vehicle.
“Stop mother--ker!” he yelled at the officers, as he dropped to the ground with his seatbelt tangled around his leg.
Off-camera, Wheatcroft’s wife, Anya Chapman, then swung the bag of unopened drinks at Officer Lindsey, knocking him unconscious, KPRC reported.
Officer Schneider then deployed his Taser on Wheatcroft and radioed for backup, the department said.
Wheatcroft’s children and wife screamed as the officer tased the combative man, bodycam footage showed.
“Lay down!” he repeatedly commanded.
Another officer then rushed in and ordered Wheatcroft to roll over multiple times.
Once he was secured in handcuffs, began moving him away from the vehicle, but his foot was still stuck in the seatbelt.
A child clambered into the front seat and yanked the belt loose, then began begging the officer not to arrest his mother.
Meanwhile, Wheatcroft continued to fight with the officers on the pavement, and began kicking his legs as they pinned him onto his stomach.
The officer turned away from the child and immediately tased Wheatcroft, whose shorts slid down during the fight, and hit him on his buttocks, The Arizona Republic reported.
According to the lawsuit, Officer Schneider “pulled down Plaintiff’s shorts and Tased his testicles and perineum.”
“I can’t breathe!” he suddenly yelled, as he continued to resist the officers. “Ow! Ow! Ow! My elbow!”
More officers arrived on scene, and Wheatcroft was ultimately subdued and raised up onto his feet so the officers could remove the Taser probes.
Police said he refused medical attention, according to KPRC.
Officer Lindsey was transported to a local hospital for treatment, and returned to regular duties several days later.
Investigators later discovered methamphetamine inside the vehicle.
Wheatcroft and Chapman were both charged with aggravated assault.
Chapman pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of assault, but the charge against Wheatcroft was ultimately dismissed.
The circumstances of the dismissal are unclear, but Wheatcroft is currently serving five years in prison on an unrelated burglary conviction.
The lawsuit claimed that Wheatcroft never resisted arrest, and accused the officers of failing to establish probable cause.
They then shocked him 11 times with the Taser, according to the suit.
“The assault and battery of Plaintiff Johnny Wheatcroft was unlawful, unprovoked, unwarranted, unjustified, callous, depraved, vicious, and evil. There was no reason for Defendants Schneider, Lindsey, and Fernandez to torture this vulnerable man," lawsuit read.
"Glendale has shown absolutely no interest in trying to resolve this case whatsoever,” Wheatcroft’s attorney, Marc Victor told NBC News. “The jury will decide what this case is worth.”
The department’s internal investigation has already been completed, KPRC reported.
“Per department protocol, a review of the officers’ actions has been performed and discipline implemented regarding certain tactics used by one officer,” the department said in a statement to KPRC.
Officer Schneider was suspended for three days for using the Taser while Wheatcroft was handcuffed and no longer resisting arrest, Glendale Police Sergeant John Roth said, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Prosecutors have also reviewed the case, and did not find reason to file criminal charges against the officers.
You can watch video from the altercation below: