A shirtless 15-year-old boy with no arms and no legs was held facedown on the kitchen floor of his Arizona group home by a deputy more than twice his size, an eight-minute video released last week shows.
The teenager was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct last week, which prompted him to release the video to a local TV station. By the next day, prosecutors had dropped the charge, and the deputy, Manuel Van Santen, was put on administrative leave Friday.
“It’s a horrible spectacle,” said Joel Feinman, the teenager’s lawyer. “He was assaulted by a man with a badge and a gun, just screamed and cursed at.”
The episode began after a woman working at a group home in Tucson called the police around 10 a.m. on Sept. 26, saying the 15-year-old, Immanuel, was screaming and had knocked over a garbage can. The teenager was upset because he wanted to go back to school, according to Feinman, who did not release the boy’s last name because of his age.
Immanuel, who lived at the group home, was yelling and tried to move past Van Santen when he arrived, Feinman said. That’s when the deputy tackled him and pinned him down in a headlock.
C.J., 16, another resident of the group home who was eating his breakfast in the next room, started recording the altercation on his cellphone after Immanuel was tackled, according to Feinman. The video, first posted by KOLD News 13, a local television station based in Tucson, showed Immanuel frantically screaming to be let go.
After nearly two minutes on the ground, Immanuel stopped protesting and the deputy stood up, continuing to yell at the boy. When C.J. interrupted the deputy, he was also arrested, Feinman said.
Both Immanuel and C.J. were detained for disorderly conduct, taken to a juvenile detention center, processed and then released. C.J. was not formerly charged, Feinman added.
Van Santen, an 11-year veteran of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, was placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, according to James Allerton, an officer with the department. He declined to comment further on the episode.
Van Santen did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.
All of the boys in the group home are in the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety, Feinman said. They live there because they have been abused, neglected or abandoned, he added.
“These are boys that have already been traumatized, and we are just adding trauma upon trauma, abuse upon abuse,” Feinman said.
As a public defender, Feinman said he regularly sees alarming things as part of his job, but this episode was especially disturbing.
“The deputy treated Immanuel with contempt, especially given how old he is, his physical condition and what he had already been through,” Feinman said. “He did not pause to think for a moment that the boy deserved to be treated like a child and a human being.”