Video: Phoenix Police Tackle Man Talking to Reporter During ICE Protests

Scene from Friday's Lights for Liberty protest.
Scene from Friday's Lights for Liberty protest. Greg Cohen
Hundreds of protesters assembled outside Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Phoenix office last Friday night, chanting things like, "Free those kids!" and "Close the camps!"

Amid the crowd, 62-year-old Jorge Soria stood holding a flag and a sign while he spoke with Arizona Mirror reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez. As video of the incident shows, the two spoke for more than a minute when, out of nowhere, a Phoenix police officer ran up, grabbed him by the neck, and dragged him into an irrigation puddle.

As first reported by the Arizona Mirror, Soria was standing near Gómez Rodriguez, who was wearing a press badge and clearly interviewing Soria when the officer approached.

Phoenix police were unable as of Wednesday to provide a reason for the amount of force used in Soria's arrest, which took place during a protest against ICE's impending roundups of undocumented immigrants. He was one of 14 people that police said they arrested that night, allegedly for failing to comply with commands to move out of the middle of the street and away from the light rail.

The unidentified officer tackled Soria at 1:10 in the video, more than a minute after Gómez Rodriguez begins asking him questions.

"I'm here to protest the way police have [been] militarized. ... When people are too intimidated to come out on the street and protest, there’s something wrong," Soria said before being slammed to the ground.

Soria can be seen and heard hitting the ground with force in the video. Another man then yells, "They got him, they got him!" Police then arrested another man, Phil Martinez, who was standing near the man who shouted and was walking away at the time of his arrest.

Asked whether she had seen Soria do anything prior to being tackled that would justify that level of force, Gómez Rodriguez told Phoenix New Times, "Not that I saw, but you know how rallies are, there's a lot going on at the same time. I wouldn't say that I had a full view of what happened. But at that moment he was talking to me, I had a press badge that was fully visible."

Soria did not immediately respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment.

"We are in the process of gathering information related to this incident," said Sergeant Mercedes Fortune, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department on Tuesday when asked about the force used on Soria during his arrest and whether it was in accordance with department policy.

The Phoenix Police Department's use of force policy states that force is only warranted when "all other alternatives have been reasonably considered and cannot be employed in a safe manner based on the totality of circumstances."

The department's own policy does not appear to justify the officer's actions in this case, given that Soria was not a threat at the time of his arrest and the officer did not speak with Soria or make any reasonable attempt to detain him prior to tackling him to the ground.

The Phoenix Police Department already has been under scrutiny in recent months after video of a Phoenix police officer threatening to shoot a black family for shoplifting went viral.

The 14 people who were arrested for misdemeanor offenses against public order already have had their cases dismissed, including Soria. But Fortune said the charges will be refiled.

"There are charges being re-submitted for the arrests," Fortune said via email when asked for any paperwork generated by Soria's arrest.

Representatives at the Phoenix Police Department, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, city prosecutor's office, and Maricopa County Superior Court all told New Times they did not have a booking sheet or incident report on Soria's arrest.

When New Times again asked Fortune for the police officer's account detailing Soria's arrest, she said to submit a public records request for the form. The Phoenix Police Department's public records bureau is notoriously slow and can take months to years to fulfill records requests. Spokespeople for the Phoenix Police Department can and have shared police reports in the past, as was the case for Dravon Ames' viral encounter with PPD, when Phoenix police shared police reports with reporters just two days after the incident went viral.

New Times has submitted a public records request for the report on Soria's arrest, which would include the arresting officer's first-person retelling of the incident. Per department policy, the officer is required to document the fact that he tackled Soria; the department has also come under fire as of late for omitting facts from police reports.

Besides Soria and the other 13 misdemeanor arrests, two men, 21-year-old Jakob Beskind and 34-year-old Jamaar Williams, were arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer, a felony. Police claim Williams attempted prevent officers from arresting protesters.

As the Arizona Mirror reported, Beskind's father said cops charged Jakob with assault after he shot silly string at a camera a police officer was holding. The silly string also got on two of the officers in riot gear.

According to court records on Beskind's arrest, police say the 21-year-old "pulled out what appeared to be a small aerosol canister containing an unknown chemical agent," then "sprayed the two officers in the face area, striking their face shields on there [sic] riot helmets."

Correction: This article previously stated that the man who shouted, "They got him!" was arrested. He was not arrested, a man walking away who was nearby, Phil Martinez, was.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.