Just before 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in December 2018, Glendale school resource officer James Calderon saw a black truck that was heading north on 67th Avenue swerve and pull in front of a blue sedan, making it stop abruptly. Calderon made a u-turn and pulled the vehicle over near Thunderbird Paseo Park.
What happened next is the subject of a $1 million federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the city of Glendale on December 13, 2019. For this article, Phoenix New Times reviewed the federal complaint, Glendale city court records on the stop and subsequent arrest, and bodycam and dash-cam footage from three responding officers.
Taken together, the footage and court records paint a picture of a routine traffic stop that was escalated by both parties. The plaintiff, Timothy Kelly, was intoxicated and argued with Calderon, who used his taser twice on Kelly, even after Kelly was already on the ground and adhering to the officer's commands. Other allegations in the lawsuit — that Glendale police and fire conspired together to deny Kelly medical care — are not clear in the footage reviewed by New Times, as footage of that portion of the encounter contained no audio.
The case follows other lawsuits against the city of Glendale and its police force that were prompted by tasing incidents. The department is currently facing an FBI probe following a 2017 video of Officer Matt Schneider tasing a man 11 times, including in the genitals, after a traffic stop. The man sued the city for excessive force and torture. The lawsuit remains ongoing and has been repeatedly stalled by the defendants.
As bodycam footage of the stop involving Kelly begins, Calderon approaches the 44-year-old and asks for his license and registration. Kelly appears agitated and tells Calderon he is late to pick up his children from school. He asks why Calderon is pulling him over, and Calderon claims that he saw Kelly's vehicle swerve into another lane of traffic.
"He flipped me off!" Kelly replied, explaining that another driver had cut him off then given him the finger. He asked Calderon why he was the one being pulled over given what he claimed the other driver had done.
"All I saw was your truck doing what it did," Calderon replied. Calderon walked back to his vehicle to run Kelly's information and write him a citation, but as a school resource officer, Calderon's car lacked the equipment he needed.
Calderon called in another officer to assist him, but about eight minutes later, Kelly exits his vehicle and walks over to Calderon. Kelly again tells Calderon he really needs to go pick up his kids from school.
Calderon tells Kelly to get back in his car and wait for him to write a citation. Kelly says he didn't do anything against the law. Calderon again asks Kelly to get back in his car. Kelly continues to argue with Calderon and does not head back to his car, at which point Calderon pulls out his taser and again asks Kelly to get back in his car.
Kelly immediately attracts the attention of two women standing nearby. "Do you see this?" Kelly yells, gesturing toward Calderon. Kelly then heads back to his car, grabs his phone, and appears to begin recording Calderon.
Kelly accuses Calderon of threatening him. Calderon calls for back-up for a "noncompliant driver," then continues to point his taser at Kelly. "Sir, I told you, I'm cutting you a citation, get back in your car," Calderon says.
"Are you threatening me?" Kelly asks. "Are you threatening me?" Kelly throws up his arms, then Calderon fires his taser from a few feet away.
The barbs hit Kelly's chest but appear to bounce off, as Kelly is wearing a thick hoodie. Calderon deploys his taser again, but appears to miss.
He then walks behind Kelly, who has not moved since Calderon fired his taser, grabs Kelly's left arm, and presses the taser directly into Kelly's back, forcing Kelly to the ground face-first. Calderon tases Kelly for about five seconds.
"I fucking told you," Calderon says as Kelly lays flat on the ground with his hands above his head.
"Did I resist? Did I do anything?" Kelly asks Calderon tearfully. "You're fucked, dude," he says a moment later.
Calderon then presses his taser into Kelly's back for an additional five seconds.
As Kelly is stunned on the ground, Calderon pulls Kelly's arms behind his back and handcuffs him. Kelly repeatedly states that the electric shock of the taser caused him to lose control of his bodily functions and defecate himself.
Glendale Police Department policy circa 2012 states that tasers should only be used "against subjects who are exhibiting active aggression (physical intimidation) or who are actively resisting (defensive resistance, active aggression, aggravated active aggression, or attempt to injure self) in a manner that, in the officer's judgment, is likely to result in injuries to themselves or others. Electronic control devices should not be used against a passive subject."
While Kelly's refusal to get back in his car could be potentially construed as aggression or resistance (though neither exactly meet the definition of physical intimidation or defensive resistance), thereby warranting Calderon's first taser deployment, it's questionable whether Calderon again driving the taser into Kelly's back after he was already on the ground meets department policy.
"Have you been drinking, Tim?" Calderon asks Kelly after handcuffing him. "Drinking at the beers place?"
Kelly mentioned a few times throughout their encounter that he had just left a restaurant called Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers, where he had been dining with his wife.
Another officer arrives in response to Calderon's earlier call for assistance writing a citation. Calderon and the second officer, Theodore Venable, bring Kelly back over to a police vehicle and get him to sit in the back.
Calderon says he is arresting Kelly for reckless driving and asks to pull the probes out of Kelly's back, but Kelly refuses. Calderon and Venable insist on pulling the probes out and Kelly complies. Kelly says he had a beer earlier when he was at the restaurant.
Kelly repeatedly states that he has defecated his pants, but Calderon assures Kelly that he does not see or smell anything.
The audio of the bodycam footage then cuts out as Calderon and Venable talk. The two walk over to a woman who witnessed the encounter. She appears to be shocked, but whatever she tells police cannot be heard in the footage.
Fire department personnel then showed up, because whenever a Glendale police officer deploys a taser, (Calderon had stated over the radio that he had deployed his taser), that's the procedure. Audio from Calderon's bodycam comes back on. One of the first responders immediately states that Kelly smells like alcohol.
Another officer, Johnson, speaks with Kelly, who appears distraught and says he is going to lose his job. Johnson reassures him that it's only a misdemeanor and nobody needs to find out.
Audio cuts out again. But from the video, it appears that fire department personnel are evaluating Kelly.
Neither Kelly's attorneys, Heather Hamel and Stephen Benedetto from The People's Law Firm, the city of Glendale, nor Glendale police would provide an on-the-record statement when contacted for this story. A spokesperson for the city of Glendale said the city cannot comment on pending litigation.
Multiple videos of the fire department personnel's interaction with Kelly do not contain any audio, making it difficult to determine what exactly is happening in the footage. According to the lawsuit filed by Kelly's attorneys, an EMT indicated that Kelly's blood pressure was "192 [over] 138," which would be over the 180/110 standard for defining hypertensive urgency, which occurs when blood pressure spikes but could still be brought down safely within a few hours with the right medication.
The lawsuit alleges that Glendale police and fire employees worked together to deprive Kelly of medical care. When EMTs called a nearby hospital to advise them of the situation, a hospital employee said Kelly needed to be brought in for treatment or sign a consent form refusing treatment, the lawsuit states.
"Police and fire officials then hatched a scheme under which a police officer would sign the refusal form on Mr. Kelly’s behalf, without his awareness that it was even being signed or that a doctor advised he was suffering from a hypertensive crisis, to enable them to book Mr. Kelly into the Glendale City Jail without medical treatment," the amended complaint alleges.
Glendale police officers then transported Kelly to Glendale City Jail, where they drew his blood to test his blood alcohol content. In footage of the blood draw at the jail, Kelly appeared at ease, laughing and joking with the officers and jail personnel drawing his blood. At one point, Kelly makes a joke about previously doing steroids, and asks if his son might be able to pick up his truck.
Officer Venable mentions that Kelly's wife, who had been at Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers with Kelly, was also intoxicated and could not pick up Kelly's vehicle.
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According to the lawsuit, Kelly said his heart was still pounding while he was at the jail and requested his blood pressure medication. He thought he was having a heart attack and told jail officials he suffered from hypertension, but they denied his requests, the amended complaint states. None of this can be heard in the jail video viewed by New Times; however, the jail booking video constitutes only eight minutes of Kelly's total time incarcerated in the jail. He was released the following day.
The blood draw showed Kelly's blood alcohol content was .107. Kelly was subsequently charged with reckless driving with a prior violation within 24 months, obstructing police, DUI with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more, and a DUI with liquor, drugs, or vapors present (Kelly at one point stated his wife was a medical marijuana cardholder and had left her marijuana in the vehicle). Kelly wasn't charged with possession of marijuana and wasn't accused in the video of using the marijuana.
Kelly took a plea deal in which he was allowed to plead guilty only to a DUI with liquor, drugs, or vapors present. He was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine.
Kelly's lawyers allege that Calderon used excessive force against Kelly by tasing him multiple times, and violated other constitutionally protected rights by allegedly denying him medical care. The city has yet to respond in court.