Video: Calif. police say man assaulted cops before clash in viral vid
Officials say a fan was "belligerent" and assaulted officers prior to encounter captured on video
By Robert Salonga
San Jose Mercury News
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara police officials say a fan was "belligerent" and assaulted officers prior to an encounter captured on a widely seen video that shows them swarming and using a baton to subdue him at the Pac-12 championship game.
The video, recorded Friday night during the Oregon-Arizona matchup at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, gained media traction after it was posted Sunday on the popular sports website Deadspin. It also came amid heightened national attention on police use of force in light of widely publicized police killings in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York City that have sparked ongoing civil unrest across the country.
According to police, Mark Lydon, 44, of Eugene, Oregon, was described "intoxicated and belligerent" by witnesses when officers were called at halftime to where he was sitting.
"The suspect repeatedly disobeyed officers' requests to calm down and he refused to cooperate with stadium staff," police said. "He continued to resist after he was told he was being ejected from the stadium and he assaulted an officer. He then forced himself on to the concourse. It is at this point that the widely disseminated video begins."
The video shows a confrontation reportedly sparked by Lydon, dressed in white Oregon apparel walking on a pathway where he was not allowed.
As police tried to redirect the man toward a general concourse, he complains about the officers pushing him along and says repeatedly, "I need you to not touch me."
Moments later, multiple officers are seen trying to subdue him, with one trying to apply a headlock and another swinging a baton at his legs. The baton breaks during the clash. The man struggles with them to remain upright and continues arguing with officers, clutching at them as they take him to the ground.
While the encounter unfolded, bystanders chanted, "He's not fighting back."
Lydon was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. He was released from custody pending a scheduled Jan. 20 arraignment.
Police said he suffered minor injuries.
Jim Dudley, a former San Francisco police commander who lectures in criminal justice at San Francisco State University, said it's difficult to gauge just from the video how much resistance officers are encountering.
"To the third party, someone might look like a passive resister. But once you put hands on and they stiffen up, pull away, or try to walk away, then that changes into active resisting, and you can ramp up use of force in those situations," he said. "But it still looks passive to a third party, and to them it doesn't appear that the force is justified."
Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, viewed the video and questioned the use of the baton and the brandishing of a Taser. But he also noted the video only offers a glimpse into the encounter.
"They had quite a few cops, so he couldn't have been too threatening. But we interpret this from the comfort of our own living rooms," Kenney said.
Dudley, who retired in 2013 as deputy chief of patrol for SFPD, also said officers are keenly aware their actions are increasingly recorded and could now face national scrutiny when they use force.
"They know about Ferguson, they know about New York. They're cognizant of that," he said.
A Facebook post by the person containing the original video was initially linked to the Deadspin story, but was later deactivated, presumably by the user.
The Santa Clara Police Department supervises police presence at Levi's Stadium, which depending on the size of the event is composed of city officers along with out-of-town cops who are deputized for the time they work at the venue.
Copyright 2014 the San Jose Mercury News