A man who was savagely beaten by police after he laid down on the ground and surrendered to them is now at risk of being deported from the country.
According to Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim, 27-year-old Edgar Vargas Arzate — who on June 20 was brutalized by police in Santa Ana, California — was brought to the U.S. as a teenager by his family. As a result of his run-in with police, Arzate is now facing immediate repatriation to Mexico.
Police deny tipping off Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and say that the department’s getting caught on tape beating the undocumented Arzate has nothing to do with his arrest on Monday by immigration officials.
On June 20, Arzate, who has struggled with drugs and alcohol, went to visit a friend in Santa Ana. The friend was no longer in residence at the address and the current occupants, confronted with an incoherent and stumbling stranger on their doorstep, called the police.
Surveillance footage shows Arzate lying down on the ground and surrendering as police cruisers pull up to the curb. Then a knot of officers descended on the supine Arzate and began to beat him, kick him and bludgeon him with a metal flashlight.
The abuse went on for several moments before two police who were observing the attack appeared to point to the camera and warn the officers that they’re being taped. They then dragged Arzate’s body out of camera range.
Arzate’s attorney, Frank Bittar told Huffington Post, “He’s lucky he wasn’t put in a wheelchair.”
On the night of the beating, Arzate was arrested and charged with a felony count of assaulting a police officer, alleging that he broke an officer’s hand. He was on his way to a preliminary hearing on Monday when the vehicle he was riding in was pulled over by ICE officials and Arzate was taken into custody.
As to how ICE found out about Arzate’s undocumented status, Bittar said, “This is so highly bizarre. The feds would never have done this if somebody hadn’t tipped them off.”
The Santa Ana Police Department’s Corporal Anthony Bertagna told Huffington Post that Arzate’s seizure by ICE on the way to his court hearing was just a coincidence.
“We don’t tip off ICE. We didn’t know he had a court date,” Bertagna insisted. “Last I heard, he was still in custody. Obviously if we wanted him arrested we’d arrest him ourselves. When it comes to ICE and their jurisdiction and the laws they enforce, when we’re asked to assist, we assist. We were not involved in ICE’s action.”
Arzate has been deported twice before on drug and auto theft charges, making him ineligible for federal programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Bittar told Huffington Post that his client returns to the U.S. because he has no family or connections of any kind in Mexico.
“Everyone he knows is here,” Bittar said.
Ordinarily, witnesses and crime victims are spared from fast-track deportations if they are part of an ongoing criminal investigation. However, law enforcement personnel are the only agency that certifies who is and isn’t a crime victim.
Because he was attacked by law enforcement personnel, Arzate is unlikely to be kept in the U.S. as a witness against his attackers. Bittar said that his client’s only hope may be an investigation into the beating by the Department of Justice.
Watch surveillance video of the beating, embedded below via Huffington Post:
[image of police officer wielding tactical baton via Shutterstock.com]