Antonio Martinez was walking the few blocks from his family’s home in Vista, California, to the Martinez family bakery back on December 12, 2012, when he was suddenly stopped by San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Guy, who excitedly pulled his cruiser directly in front of the young man, who stands just 4’11” and weighs 158 pounds.
Guy later said that he stopped Martinez for looking “suspicious,” mainly, it appears, due to the black hooded sweatshirt Antonio wore. He also said that Antonio did not comply with his commands. That’s why he jumped out of his car, pepper-sprayed the young man in the face, then beat him with a metal baton.
The deputy claimed that because Antonio had his hands in his pockets, he believed that the “suspicious” individual — who was, in fact, a well-known and well-liked figure in his neighborhood — could have been concealing a weapon.
What Guy did not know, or notice, or bother to find out was that Antonio was born with Down Syndrome, a severe developmental disability that, even though Antonio was 21 years old at the time, restricts his mental and emotional capacity to that of a small child.
The fact is, Antonio had no idea what was going on or what the deputy was commanding him to do. In fact, during questioning by police, Antonio — whose command of language limits him to sentences of just a few words — had no idea what a police car was.
But that didn’t stop Guy from beating him, handcuffing him, then taking him to a police station and holding him for five hours, without even letting him see his family.
“I heard my brother screaming mine and my sister’s name,” said his sister Jessica, who ran from the bakery when someone told her that the police were attacking her brother. “He was screaming for help. My brother wasn’t fighting. He was crying and screaming. He was scared.”
The sheriff’s department charged Antonio with obstructing justice, but soon dropped the charge.
Guy’s commanding officer, in a legal deposition, later admitted that the deputy “did not have reasonable cause to stop and use force on him,” according to documents uncovered by local TV station KGTV.
But at the time, the sheriff’s department’s idea of an apology was to offer the Martinez family a turkey dinner, with the county picking up the tab.
Needless to say, the Martinez family was not hungry. Instead, they sued the county and, earlier this month, won a settlement of $1 million.
The KGTV investigation also found that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department had no policy or training program for its officers with regard to how to treat people with mental disabilities — even though a California law in effect since 2006 requires all police agencies to implement such a policy.
The investigation also found an incident just two months after the beating of Antonio Martinez, in which Guy was accused of stomping on the head of a college student with his work boot — a charge that resulted in yet another lawsuit.
Sadly, incidents similar to the Antonio Martinez beating in which police have assaulted and even killed people with mental disabilities have become frequent. Examples of previous such stories reported by the Inquisitr can be found at this link, as well as this one. Also, here, here, and at this link, to name a few.
[Images via Los Angeles Times, San Diego County Sheriff’s Office]