Glendale police are re-visiting a near 2-year-old incident in which an officer was struck in the head and rendered unconscious while he and two other officers stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation.
According to a news release Friday afternoon, on July 26, 2017, the Glendale Police Department was in the area 5900 West Myrtle Avenue conducting intensive patrol due to increased crime reported in the area.
Around 7:30 p.m., Officers Matt Schneider and Mark Lindsey contacted the occupants of a Ford Taurus after Mr. Schneider observed a traffic violation, the release states.
The officers approached the vehicle and found it occupied by three adults and two children. Police learned the driver did not have a driver’s license and began to address an observed seat belt violation, the release states.
The occupants were a 34-year-old driver; front-seat passenger Johnny Wheatcroft, 37; and rear passenger Anya Chapman, 34. Two other back seat passengers were children ages 11 and 6.
The officers noticed Mr. Wheatcroft reaching down below his seat into a backpack. Mr. Wheatcroft also reportedly exhibited verbal non-compliance by refusing to identify himself and failed to obey the officer’s instructions to stop reaching his hands beneath the seat into the backpack and elsewhere in the vehicle.
“For the safety of themselves and those around them, including the minor children, the officers attempted to remove Mr. Wheatcroft from the vehicle so they could maintain a safe eye on him for the duration of the traffic stop as well as conduct a pat down for weapons,” Glendale police stated in a release.
However, Mr. Wheatcroft began to physically resist the officers’ attempts to remove him and continued placing his hands where officers could not see them. The officers displayed their Tasers and warned him of potential use to gain his compliance. However, Mr. Wheatcroft continued to argue, yell and physically resist the officers’ control holds.
Due to the physical resistance from Mr. Wheatcroft, an officer used the Taser in a “drive stun capacity.”
At some point, Ms. Chapman reportedly swung a bag filled with bottled drinks, striking Mr. Lindsey in the head and rendering him unconscious. Mr. Schneider then deployed his Taser, striking Mr. Wheatcroft. He then asked for additional officers to respond.
As multiple officers arrived, they tended to the injured officer and helped detain Mr. Wheatcroft after he calmed down. Police also found methamphetamine in the vehicle.
Mr. Wheatcroft and Ms. Chapman were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. The latter has since pleaded guilty. Police identified the driver, but Independent Newsmedia is not providing his name as it appears he wasn’t formally charged.
Police state Mr. Wheatcroft refused medical attention while Mr. Lindsey was taken to the hospital for treatment. He returned to duty several days later.
“The Glendale Police Department is dedicated to remaining transparent with the community that we serve, and public safety is the top priority,” police stated. “The Department recognizes that society expects accountability and we hold ourselves to the highest standards set by Arizona Police Officer Standards and Training as well as state law. Per Department protocol regarding any response to resistance, a review of the officers’ actions has been performed and discipline implemented regarding certain tactics used by one officer.”
However, police have not publicly said what that discipline was, and are unable to comment on the situation as it is under litigation.
According to a report, Mr. Wheatcroft was Tased 11 times and struck in the genital area by at least one officer. One of the officers was on leave for 30 work hours (3 days) and continues to work for the agency.
A complaint filed in federal court seeks damages against the city of Glendale and the three responding officers. It states the charges against Mr. Wheatcroft were later dropped by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.