A civil jury has awarded almost three-quarters of a million dollars to Stockton resident Joseph Green in a long-stalled civil lawsuit that accused the city and two police officers of false arrest and excessive force.
Then 16-year-old Green stopped at a gas station convenience store on Feb. 17, 2011, to buy candy for his 5-year-old sister while his mother filled the car up with gas. Green tried to pay with a damaged bill, which the clerk wouldn’t take. Plainclothes Stockton police Officer Robert Johnson, who was grabbing water with his partner, Officer Robert Wong, was waiting in line behind Green.
The store’s surveillance cameras captured a violent altercation between Green and Johnson that played out over the next 10 minutes, video that was played over and over again in court last week. The video appears to contradict information in Johnson’s police report on the incident and parts of his sworn testimony in the civil case. The arrest for allegedly trespassing and resisting arrest ended with Green being hauled out of the store in handcuffs, his blood and two front teeth left behind on the floor.
The jury found on Jan. 22 that Johnson had falsely arrested Green and had used excessive force. Green was awarded $710,000.
The video, which contains no audio, shows that after the clerk refused to take Green’s damaged dollar, Johnson got involved. Johnson wrote in his police report that he directed Green to leave the store, that he pulled out his badge to identify himself and that Green responded by saying “F you and your badge.” Green said Johnson escalated the situation first, yelling at him to “get the F out of the store.”
This video has been edited for brevity and clarity. View the raw video files here.
The two can be seen in heated conversation for about 15 seconds before Green turns to leave, walking toward the exit, opening the door and taking a step out into the rainy afternoon. Johnson follows him, grabs him from behind and pulls him back inside. Johnson testified that he told Green he was under arrest for trespassing, and Green’s attempt to leave meant that he was fleeing arrest.
Green’s attorney, Charles Piccuta, argued that it was absurd for the officer to arrest a suspect for trespassing at precisely the moment he was leaving. What really happened, Piccuta said, was a reaction to Green’s words.
“Anyone who challenges his authority is going to pay,” Piccuta told the jury. “That’s what he did, he paid him back for mouthing out.”
Johnson said as soon as he pulled Green back into the store, there was a tussle.
“We were pushing and pulling,” Johnson testified.
Green said what happened was less of a tussle and more of an attack, that Johnson grabbed him and pushed him to the ground.
While the video angle changes, almost all of the incident is captured. Less than 10 seconds pass between Johnson grabbing Green as he tries to leave and Green ending up on the ground in an aisle of the convenience store. Johnson testified that they tripped over a stack of shopping baskets. Green said he clipped those carts as he was already on his way down, forcefully pushed by Johnson.