A one-legged homeless man waving his crutches in the air was thrown to the ground by San Francisco police after they received a call about a man waving some “sticks” around in public.
The incident was captured on video by several outraged witnesses, which showed a total of 14 cops arriving on the scene as officers struggled with the man for more than ten minutes, stepping on his prosthetic leg, striping his pants off and shoving his face into the ground.
However, the video also shows that the man was already handcuffed from the onset of the recording.
“These are my crutches. I use these to walk,” the man can be heard saying.
Witnesses said there had been a call about somebody waving sticks around. No one, at least no one that I stayed long enough after the filming, could say for sure where the call came from. One woman said that she heard someone say that one of the deli managers called. By the time I arrived where Joe Bland was (as we’ll call him), several officers had arrived on the scene, and forced this man to the ground, which is where this footage begins. And they held him down, much of the time half-naked, for at least half an hour on one of San Francisco’s busiest streets.
The sticks? They were his crutches. You can hear people in the background around say so much. From my vantage point on the shore of 8th street, I could see the man reluctantly hand over his crutches. The man, it turned out, only had one leg; the other was a prosthetic. It is often twisted and backwards in the video. And this was the crux of the heightened tension between the police and Joe Bland; they wanted his crutches and he did not want to give them away. “What are you doing this for?” he asked so many times. “These are my crutches. I use these to walk.” He repeats this throughout the footage. An officer can be seen at the 5 second time-mark stomping on the man’s prosthetic leg. In further efforts to subdue a man already on the ground with four people on top of him, they stood on his leg, held it, and twisted it around even after they had cuffed him and pinned him to the piss-stained concrete.
Even when restrained and clearly unable to walk, several officers continued to hold him down to the ground.
The man was eventually taken to the hospital against his will. It does not appear as if he was jailed or charged with any crime.