A fun-filled night came to an abrupt end just after midnight on June 8, when Morro Bay police officers repeatedly tased a man and sprayed him with mace inside the bar, prompting a full evacuation.
- IMAGES COURTESY OF CRAIGSLIST AND BRIAN LOPEZ MARTINEZ
- EXCESSIVE FORCE? : This image of Brian Lopez Martinez’s scuffle with Morro Bay police was posted on craigslist.com with an appeal for anyone with video recordings to come forward to “bring these police officers to justice.” Also pictured are Martinez’s injuries from being repeatedly tased.
According to half a dozen witnesses, Brian Lopez Martinez was calm and coherent and not causing any trouble that night. Two officers (whose identities could not be confirmed as of press time) were on patrol, searching for signs of trouble inside the bar.
The witnesses say the officers approached Martinez and asked to talk with him outside. His friends cautioned him against leaving the establishment, warning that he’d get popped for a drunk in public if he left.
Martinez refused to move, so the officers reportedly began to drag and push the 145-pound 23-year-old toward the door. Martinez resisted. That’s when he heard words he said he’ll never forget: “Just tase him.”
Martinez saw a female officer with her Taser gun drawn, then felt an intense shock rush through his body.
“I couldn’t think or move or do anything,” Martinez told New Times. “I had no idea why they were doing this to me.”
After the altercation, Martinez had puncture marks on his back, arm, and ribs. Witnesses say he was tased five to 10 times. No one reported seeing him throw a punch, but some witnesses said that as officers gripped Martinez by the shirt and he slipped out of the garment, his arms were in a position that could be interpreted as being poised to deliver a blow.
“I was never fighting them, but I was dead-set on not going outside or going down,” Martinez said.
At some point, Martinez was reportedly slammed into an ice machine (located mere feet from a door leading outside) and sprayed point blank with pepper spray. The fumes were strong enough to cause bystanders to flee the bar, gasping for air.
“I witnessed police brutality at its finest,” said Nadine Freeman, who witnessed the incident. “What happened to that boy was wrong.”
At 12:40 a.m., the Sheriffs Department received a call from a witness who wanted another jurisdiction on site to put a stop to the Morro Bay officers’ allegedly excessive actions. By the time deputies arrived, the fight was over. They only stayed on scene for seven minutes, according to a department spokesman.
Martinez was arrested and charged with public intoxication, resisting arrest, and battery against an officer. He had no prior offenses on his record. Martinez said he sat in a squad car for more than an hour with Taser prongs stuck in his back and pepper spray burning his face. He was treated for a sprained wrist at Sierra Vista Hospital, sent to jail for a few hours, and was free by 8 a.m. Martinez said the incident has left him scared and eager to move away from Morro Bay.
He said he plans to press charges against the police department.
Joshua Ian, who was also arrested, told New Times in a written statement that he yelled for the police to stop and that he attempted to pull Martinez away from them. Ian was charged with battery against an officer, disturbing the peace, and attempted lynching. He was released from county jail the next day. After the arrests, the officers shut the bar down entirely, costing the establishment an hour and a half of business.
Morro Bay Cmdr. Brian Millard wouldn’t comment on the incident, but said it’s standard procedure for officers to perform bar checks.
Legal experts told New Times that police are well within their rights to enter establishments that serve liquor to look for signs of over indulgence and potential hazards to public safety. Because the general public is allowed inside a bar, there are no privacy protections. Being drunk in a bar is equivalent to being drunk in public, according to a local attorney.