An Oregon police deputy captured on video repeatedly hitting a homeless man during an arrest Monday has been temporarily reassigned during the investigation into the incident, police said Tuesday.
Footage captured by KGW-TV of Portland, Ore., showed four Marion County Sheriff's deputies confronting Kevin Straw, 28. Police were taking him into custody for disrupting a search and rescue mission in Detroit, Ore. Detroit is about 59 miles south of Portland.
In the video, the deputies can be seen forcing Straw to the ground. A deputy appears to punch Straw in the back of the head more than 20 times.
Marion County Sheriff's officials contend that Straw was resisting arrest and had a knife in his possession. They said an outside law enforcement agency will be reviewing the incident.
A sheriff's spokesman identified the involved deputies as Derrick Ramseyer, Dave Zahn, Ethan Griffith, Jake Thompson and Mark Ferron. Thompson has been temporarily reassigned to "non-patrol" duties until the investigation is complete.
Thompson, Ramseyer, Zahn and Ferron are part of the sheriff's Enforcement Division. Griffith works in the Community Resources Unit of the Operations Division.
Officials with ACLU Oregon called the deputies' actions unjustified and violent. ACLU Oregon Executive Director David Rogers called for an investigation into the incident.
"Repeatedly punching someone who is apprehended to the ground by four police officers is a clear example of excessive use of force. Period," he said, adding that the behavior "degrades community trust in law enforcement."
The Saturday before his arrest, witnesses reported seeing Straw yell at passersby about cougars and military special forces. A mental health Mobile Crisis Response Team responded, but Straw refused their help.
On Monday, Straw began to shout into the command center and radio operations center while deputies were conducting a search and rescue operation.
After he became so disruptive staff was unable to hear search personnel, deputies asked him to leave. Straw returned to the command post twice, and deputies attempted to take him into custody.
According to the sheriff's office, Straw "physically resisted and force was used to take him into custody." Deputies found a large fixed-blade knife in his possession.
In the video, a deputy can be seen carrying a knife away from the scene.
Straw, whose last known address was in Scio, Ore., can be heard repeatedly pleading, "I am not resisting ... Please stop ... Help... I'm disabled. It hurts... I'm bleeding."
He mentions just wanting to brush his teeth before he leaves town.
"I came to warn you about the cougar," he said while pinned to the ground. "There's a cougar. It's hurting people."
After he was restrained, Straw was evaluated by paramedics and met with the mobile crisis response team. He was cited for resisting arrest and interfering with police before he was taken to the Psychiatric Crisis Center in Salem for a mental health evaluation, police said.
Court records matching Straw's name and age list him as a Portland resident. According to records, Straw was evicted from his apartment in May.
In his answer to the eviction, Straw detailed a series of problems in the apartment including rodents and insects. He also cited his "extensive debilitating chronic total disability." He listed his alias as "Tessa Lovelace."
Documents involving his 2016 arrest for assault and harassment state that Straw had full-time employment as a software developer. His releasing documents stated he had depression, anxiety, ADHD and autism spectrum.
The alleged assault involved his neighbors, who Straw believed were setting off fireworks near his home. The charges were dismissed in 2017 because of a lack of witness participation.
Rogers said there is no justification for the unnecessary "bludgeoning."
"When law enforcement is engaged in extreme and unwarranted violence, it is a prosecutable crime," he said. "We demand a swift, thorough and transparent investigation."
The sheriff's office addressed the incident in a written statement Tuesday evening, saying it "continues to gather all relevant facts and information about this arrest and will be reviewing the use of force applied in accordance with the office policy."
The Marion County Sheriff's Office released its use of force policy Tuesday.
After the review, Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers said he will have an outside agency review the findings.
"My ultimate goal with the review of this incident is to be thorough and transparent with our findings," he said.