Glendale city, police officials respond to 2017 taser incident controversy

GLENDALE, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- The mayor of Glendale has released a statement, as the West Valley city's police department faces mounting controversy surrounding the tasing of a man during a police incident in 2017.

In the statement, Mayor Jerry P. Weiers said the incident was subjected to an "official, critical, comprehensive and independent review", in accordance with state procedures and state laws, and that one officer has been subjected to disciplinary action as a result of the event, which Weiers described as "complicated".

Documents released by Glendale officials on Tuesday include a letter sent by Assistant Chief of Police Rich LeVander to Officer Matthew Schneider, ordering a suspension, without pay, for 30 working hours, saying the misconduct constitutes "major performance deficiencies and gross negligence" in the performance of job responsibilities. Besides the tasing, Schneider, according to the letter, also delivered kicks to the suspect's groin area.

Mayor Weiers also said the city forwarded the incident to the Maricopa County Attorney's office for an official review, and they declined to pursue criminal prosecution against the officers involved.

"All of these independent reviews and the disciplinary action happened because of our commitment to accountability and the expectation of a standard of excellence in Glendale," wrote Mayor Weiers, who also wrote that he is limiting his public remarks to the statement, as the incident is currently in litigation.

During the tasing incident, which was captured in detail by body cameras, police officials say officers tried to remove a man, identified as Johnny Wheatcroft, from a car so they could maintain a safe eye on them, but Wheatcroft immediately began to resist the officers. Officers then displayed their Tasers and warned Wheatcroft of potential Taser use. Wheatcroft continue to argue, yell, and physically resist the officers' control hold, and as a result of the physical resistance, and officials say the Taser was used in a "drive stun" capacity on Wheatcroft.

In body cam video, an officer was later seen deploying his taser, striking Wheatcroft. According to a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit connected to the incident, the body camera video shows officers using a stun gun 11 times on Wheatcroft. Reports say Wheatcroft was shocked in, among other places, his testicles, but police officials on Monday referred to that area as Wheatcroft's thigh.

Body camera video of the incident was released by Glendale Police on Friday and has sparked a protest. On Monday, Sgt. John Roth with the department said he wanted to give members of the media all the information, but refused to allow cameras inside to show a dozen reporters four different videos of the incident.

On Tuesday, Glendale Police released a large packet of records, including the disciplinary report and forensic reports from the officer tasers. That forensic report includes details such as when the taser prongs were deployed, when it was used in the so-called "drive stun" mode, and when the arc made contact with Wheatcroft.

"In general, 'drive stun' are pain compliance," said Use of Force Expert Lon Bartel, in a phone interview. "Probe activation is different. When I put probes in, I spread out the electric current so that it's capturing the muscular-skeletal system. I'm capturing the subjects ability to voluntarily control his muscles. A drive stun is pain, and as human beings, it's normal for us to move away from pain."

Wheatcroft and his wife are suing Glendale for physical and emotional harm.