Phoenix Police Roughed Up a Black Man Who Nearly Died, Witnesses Claim

Witnesses claim a black church groundskeeper in South Phoenix was roughed up by Phoenix police officers, who just left him there.

The man, Frank Morrison, suffered a stroke during his run-in with police, and has been hospitalized since early Monday morning.

It's unclear exactly why police were at the Word Center church and the surrounding church-owned properties -- where the church helps house people -- around Third Street and Southern Avenue, around 4 a.m. on Monday.

Phoenix police have not been very eager to explain the situation, e-mailing New Times a statement (which can be read below) instead of answering questions.

People who were there say police told them they were looking for a burglary suspect, as Morrison was handcuffed, taken to the ground, and tossed against a police car, according to witnesses -- before being released with no ticket or any citation, and dumped on the side of the road in front of the church, as officers took off.

Morrison wasn't able to relay all the details of the incident this morning, as hospital staff at the Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center cut off interviews with Morrison due to his rising blood pressure.

However, Pastor Jeffrey Burns, as well as a man who lives at the center, Jerome Holland, corroborated the story.

Holland tells New Times that he woke up to police flashlights in his face, as officers had come into his home on the property -- where he lives with his two small children -- without serving any warrant that he's aware of, and pulled him out of his room.

Holland says police were quick to leave him, but says he saw Morrison out of his window, as police were aggressively moving him around a patrol car.

Pastor Burns tells New Times that he also saw Morrison outside, getting "slammed" into the side of the police car.

Interestingly, Burns says this is not the first time something like this has happened, as maybe about a week ago, police from the Phoenix Police Department's South Mountain precinct also came around the property without a warrant.

Burns says officers from that precinct have referred to his property as a "compound of criminals," referring to the types of people he helps house.

"Everybody needs a place to stay," Burns says.

Yet another witness corroborated the story of Morrison being roughed up and left by the side of the road, and Phoenix attorney Ben Taylor confirms he's collected several signed witness statements about the incident.

Local black activists Jeffrey Metcalfe and Jarrett Maupin both believe the incident is race-related, as Maupin pointed out that stories like this don't tend to come out of Phoenix's predominantly white neighborhoods.

"If [police] can't do it at 24th Street and Camelback (near the Biltmore Estates), you can't do it at Third Street and Southern," Maupin says.

Again, we'd like to offer the cops' side of the story, but there doesn't appear to be one at this point. Below, read the response to the allegations e-mailed to us by Phoenix Police Sergeant Steve Martos:

"It has always been the policy of the Phoenix Police Department to welcome the community to report any allegations of officer misconduct; we take all complaints seriously. Although allegations have been made to the media, none of these were brought to the attention of the Phoenix Police Department. Nonetheless, based on information received late yesterday the department is looking into this incident. Attempts have been made to speak with Mr. Morrison however he has declined to speak with us. We have learned our officers came into brief contact with Mr. Morrison in the early morning hours of Monday August 26th during an unrelated incident. We will continue to review the facts as information is received and we encourage open and honest communications with the community we protect and serve."
Morrison's associates tell us that police went to interview him at the hospital this morning, before our arrival.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley