The police have a protocol that we are expected to follow, exactly and immediately, or face dire consequences. When Antonio Martinez walked down the street past where police were investigating a domestic violence dispute, he put his hood over his head. The police must have regarded this as suspicious behavior — if not illegal, it should be — and so they demanded he stop. When he didn’t, they pepper sprayed him and then beat and kicked him. And all this dispite that onlookers said Antonio was down-syndrome.
“Fall in line or fall at our feet.” To say the least, Antonio had nothing to do with the domestic dispute the police were investigating and in fact had done nothing wrong. He was walking from his home to the family bakery.
Antonio is a 21-year-old mentally disabled man who doesn’t pick up on all the social cues that, say, his sisters would. When Jessica Martinez joined the crowd where her brother was beaten, she rushed to the bakery to tell her parents.
“I heard my brother screaming my name and my sister’s name,” she later explained, “He was screaming for help.
“My brother wasn’t fighting. He was crying and screaming. He was scared.”
The police’s explanation of the incident is more austere. “As the gentleman walked by, he covered his head with the hood of his sweatshirt,” said Capt Rodi. “Trying to conceal his identity.” When the gentleman didn’t stop at the policeman’s orders, “He pepper sprayed him. When that wasn’t effective, he hit him with a baton, which put him on the ground, and then a couple more strikes to get his hands free. So they could hand cuff him.”
The captain later visited the family and admitted that “We made a mistake here.” The Martinez family says they have already contacted an attorney.