Police were responding to a domestic disturbance call involving another man described as Johnson’s friend.
The surveillance video shows Johnson leaning over a railing and then leaning against a wall before he is grabbed and struck. Police said he refused orders to sit down.
Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista, who said he only learned about the May 23 incident last week, has promised an investigation. “At first glance this looks like a mistake, it doesn’t look right,” he said.
Johnson’s pastor, Andre Miller, said Thursday that he and Johnson’s attorneys don’t believe that the incident was racially motivated. “This is a culture issue — a police culture issue that has to change,” Miller said. “It could happen to any one of us.”
Johnson faces charges of disorderly conduct and hindering prosecution. His attorney, Benjamin Taylor, said they want the charges dropped and are exploring legal options, including a lawsuit.
The video has prompted outrage from some civil rights groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has called the arrest “horrific and another incident of the endemic police violence against people of color,” and said, “Nothing about Johnson’s behavior in the video justifies this brutality.”
A police officer in an arrest report said that Johnson refused an order to sit down and instead leaned against a wall, which the office believed allowed Johnson to have “a strong base in the wall to fight off of.”