ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri legislator has released a video that he says supports his lawsuit claiming police officers used excessive force while arresting him during a protest of a fatal police shooting.
The edited video released Sunday on state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr.’s Facebook page was shot during protests after a white police officer shot 18-year-old Antonio Martin, who was black, in 2014 in Berkeley, Missouri.
Franks, a black activist who was part of a group trying to keep peace between protesters and police, said the video shows him being kicked, beaten and sprayed with tear gas.
The two-minute video appears to be mostly from police body cameras but also contains apparent TV footage.
It shows Franks on the ground, saying “I’m not fighting” while officers yell at him to get on his stomach and stay on the ground. The apparent TV footage appears to show officers kicking and hitting Franks.
The release of the 2014 Antonio Martin protest footage, is not to fuel tensions but to bridge gaps. This happened to me, but I’m not an anomaly. It took them a while to get us the body cam footage. It’s about transparency and accountability. pic.twitter.com/WM2OjlhuUy
— Bruce Franks Jr (@brucefranksjr) November 26, 2018
Another segment of the video shows officers discussing spraying protesters with Mace and one saying a person was down and “I (expletive) kicked him like there was no (expletive) tomorrow.” It’s not clear if the officer was referring to Franks.
Franks, a Democrat from St. Louis, filed a federal lawsuit in 2016 alleging officers used excessive force while arresting him for charges that were later dropped. He also alleges officers lied to shift the blame to Franks and to cover up the arrest.
He told The Associated Press Tuesday that he and his legal team recently received the body cam footage after waiting for two years. He said he didn’t release the video to fuel tension but to increase transparency.
“I wanted to show that this is really happening,” Franks said. “Everyone feels that these things they hear about on the news maybe aren’t really happening. It happens more often than we like to believe.”
He said the social media release provides “a platform to have a real conversation about the truth of the incident.”
Sgt. Shawn McGuire of the St. Louis County Police Department said in a statement that his office could confirm its police officers were involved in the protest.
“The protest turned violent, and subjects were taken into custody,” McGuire said. “Any use of force that occurred was documented and internal investigations were conducted as part of that review. We cannot further comment on the actions taken by officers that night due to pending litigation.”
It’s not clear how many cameras were used in the video, or which department or departments released the video. St. Louis County and Berkeley police have not responded to the Post-Dispatch’s request for unedited video.
Arch City Defenders, which is representing Franks, said in a statement Tuesday it would not release the full video. The organization, a nonprofit civil rights law firm, has filed more than a dozen lawsuits challenging state violence, with most of those cases stemming from “a militarized police response to people engaging in their First Amendment right to protest,” spokeswoman Rebecca Gorley said in the statement.
“In the case of Mr. Franks, we’ve been fighting for justice for two and a half years and we will continue to work for justice not only for him, but for countless others in the region who have been seriously harmed and traumatized,” she said.
Franks claimed in his lawsuit that he was seriously injured by two St. Louis County police officers and one Bel-Ridge officer. The protest near a gas station in Berkeley turned violent as small explosive devices and rocks were thrown at officers.
Attorneys for the officers have said Franks was not beaten and he was “actively wrestling” with police during the arrest.
Charges against Franks of assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting or interfering with an arrest were later dropped.