To Serve and Humiliate

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They put her in a holding cell. She used water from the cell's water fountain to try to clean the blood from her thighs. She was photographed and fingerprinted, then placed back in the holding cell. Finally, a female officer brought Johnson a tampon and some aspirin for her pain. She still was not allowed to go to a bathroom, and instead was forced to insert the tampon in full view of surveillance cameras.

The police said she was charged with aggravated assault upon a police officer and resisting arrest. But she was never arraigned or brought before a magistrate or judge, and there are currently no charges pending against her.

At one point before she was released, she says Walther came into her cell and told her she had to confess to the charges as a condition of being released. "You know you can't be beating on a police officer," she says he told her.

She was released at 2 a.m. without being given a place to clean up. She wasn't offered any transport home. She put on the clothes her son had collected for her, called a friend and then started to walk home. The friend met her and took her the rest of the way.

Mark Walther's police report tells a different story. He claims that when he and Angelini arrived, Johnson began screaming that her boyfriend had hit her. He noticed that Padilla had a cut on the side of his head. Johnson and Padilla both say that Padilla hit his head when he fell while dodging the perfume bottle Johnson threw at him. Walther says he "attempted to calm Johnson" in the bedroom "as Officer Angelini spoke with Padilla in the living room."

He says Johnson told him to "get the fuck out," and tried to push past him to get to the bathroom. He says he grabbed her wrist, and she turned around and punched him in the arm. "I placed her in an arm bar and attempted to handcuff her. . . . She continued to pull from me, screaming for me to let her go. I was able to handcuff her, but was forced to restrain her (holding her arms) to prevent her from running out of the bedroom. Johnson began screaming for me to let her go, and stated she had done nothing wrong. . . . She told me I would hear from the ACLU."

Though he claims that Johnson said Padilla had assaulted her, Walther never asked her if she wanted to press charges. Angelini asked Padilla if he wanted to press charges against Johnson. He said no.

Johnson says she called Michael Heidingsfield, who was until recently Scottsdale's police chief. She says he told her that, in domestic-violence cases, it was policy to take a woman to jail for her own safety.

The SPD, which doesn't consider itself accountable to citizens or the press, didn't return my phone calls.

Bonnie Johnson has filed a $12.5 million lawsuit against the City of Scottsdale. The law firm that represents her, Spector Law Offices, is familiar with the SPD's abuse of minorities. The firm represents Club Tribeca in its lawsuit over police harassment of minorities. Records show that, of 160 people arrested at the club, only 16 were white.

"The police run this city," says Al Spector. "They think it's the Fiefdom of Scottsdale, where U.S. law does not apply. It's a police dictatorship."

How you perceive what happened in Bonnie Johnson's bedroom that night depends on whom you believe. Photographs of Johnson's injuries--bruises on her arms, cuts and abrasions on her feet--are certainly consistent with her version of the story.

But if Johnson and Padilla are lying and Padilla did indeed beat her up, he could have inflicted the injuries. However, the police report makes no mention of these injuries, which are so obvious that the cops could hardly have failed to notice them if she'd had them when they arrived.

One of Johnson's neighbors, Nancy Wrigley, says she was home that evening, and that the only loud quarrel she heard was the one Johnson had with the cops.

"I heard Bonnie's voice, and then I heard the police talking to her," she says, adding that Johnson was asking "just to get some clothes on." Wrigley adds that it was a cold night. "I was in shock that she had no shoes, that they wouldn't let her put shoes on."

But roughing up people is de rigueur for the Scottsdale Police Department.
What is less familiar, and more sickening, is the way Johnson was humiliated--there's no doubt that she was taken to jail bleeding and almost naked. The holding cells are equipped with surveillance cameras, but her attorney was unable to obtain a copy of the videotape of her in the cell--a tape that would confirm many of her claims, including the visit she says she received from Walther.

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Barry Graham