Police body worn camera footage taken at the beginning of an incident which saw the forcible arrest of 44-year-old Mali Watkins in Alameda, Calif., on May 23, 2020. Image from video provided by the Alameda Police Dept.
A Pasadena-based attorney has been hired by the city of Alameda to conduct an independent investigation into the arrest of a Black man after he was seen dancing in a street in May, leading to a public outcry and allegations of racial profiling and excessive force, officials said.
Alfonso Estrada of the law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud and Romo has been hired to investigate the May 23 of arrest of 44-year-old Mali Watkins, Alameda city officials said in a written statement.
“Mr. Estrada has significant experience in conducting outside independent administrative investigations pertaining to police officer activities which include use of force incidents,” the statement said. “He has conducted investigations for the City of Beverly Hills Police and Fire Departments, City of Anaheim, City of Alhambra Police Department, City of Colton, City of Loma Linda Fire Department, and City of Fresno Fire Department.”
“In his previous experience as a prosecutor, Mr. Estrada worked with law enforcement officers and public defenders in seeking justice in the criminal courts in Los Angeles,” according to the statement. “ Mr. Estrada is uniquely qualified to conduct a fair and impartial investigation of any peace officer.”
The arrest took place after someone called police to report they were concerned about Watkins mental state because he was acting strangely, the Mercury News reported.
Watkins reportedly told responding officers that he was dancing and exercising, as is his normal routine.
When he told the officers he lived in the neighborhood and was leaving, the officers forced him to the ground and arrested him on suspicion of resisting or obstructing police, according to the Mercury News.
The two primary officers involved in the arrest, identified as Officer Harris Smiler and officer Anthony Buck, have both been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, city officials said
No anticipated timeline for the investigation was available.
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