At one point, as the camera bobbles up and down the duty shirt of exhausted Manteca patrol officer Ben Cromwell, a single question illustrates the seriousness of the situation he just found himself in.
“Hey – did he stab me?”
Last week Police Chief Nick Obligacion released the seven-minute long body camera video showing the exchange between Cromwell and backup officers and 48-year-old Robert Olvera alongside the Showtime Express Car Wash on East Yosemite Avenue.
Cromwell, who was patrolling alone, had responded to a complaint that somebody was sleeping alongside of the building. The video – which chronicles the entire incident from when he steps out of his patrol car to when officers help strip his bloody clothes – shows him walking upon Olvera, and in a 45-second span ordering him to wake up 13 times and to show his hands three times. He announced that he was a police officer multiple times as well.
Some of Olvera’s family members have taken to the Internet to claim that the responding officers beat him for no reason – one tale even claiming that Cromwell was the one that took the handcuffs off of the 48-year-old man at the end and said “he’s not going to do anything to us now” was posted on CopBlock.org.
From the first-person angle video taken from Cromwell’s chest camera, the struggle ensued when he attempted to grab the man’s free hand which wasn’t visible to the camera. The two tussled, and Cromwell can be heard screaming “stop grabbing me – stop grabbing me.”
Obligacion said that the man had latched on to Cromwell’s testicles and refused to let go. Even after Olvera had been tased by a responding officer, he makes another attempt to grab Cromwell’s crotch as the officer tries to ratchet one of hands back so that he can be cuffed.
“Let go of me – God… – you keep grabbing me,” he says.
Some of the audio, and therefore Cromwell’s instructions, are muffled, and the majority of the angle that the camera captured during the physical altercation was the back of the head and neck of the suspect. After a brief dark period a considerable amount of blood appears to be pooling where the concrete curbing meets the asphalt parking lot.
“Sarge – he had a hold of my testicles bro,” Cromwell said as Sergeant Joe Aguilar walks over with a flashlight “I just kept hitting him.”
At the point in the video when the officer was grabbed in the groin there is a distinct change in the inflection of his voice.
Obligacion released the video after issuing a release on Friday that acknowledged that “questions have been raised as to the need for the force used against the suspect.” The video contradicts many Internet accounts of what transpired.
Olvera was arrested for assault on a police officer, and custody was transferred to San Joaquin General Hospital where he was transported for injuries to his face and ribs. He told a Sacramento-based TV news outlet that his injuries required reconstructive surgery. The charges have been forwarded on to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office for review.
Due to the extent of Cromwell’s groin injuries, doctors ordered him not to work for a month.