August 12th, 2008
03:22 PM ET

Caught on tape: Police Brutality?

Louis Schwartz and Kurt Graham respond to a report of a man wearing a ski-mask inside a pharmacy.
Louis Schwartz and Kurt Graham respond to a report of a man wearing a ski-mask inside a pharmacy.

Gabe Falcon
AC360° writer

According to its web site, the West Palm Beach Police Department has 271 sworn officers in its ranks.

It also has an Internal Affairs Unit that probes allegations of misconduct.

This week, Internal Affairs has a new case to investigate – one that was captured on tape. The video, which was recorded by a patrol car dash-cam, was shot on May 26th.

The officers, Louis Schwartz and Kurt Graham, were responding to a report of a man wearing a ski-mask inside a pharmacy. When they arrived, police said the suspect, Pablo Gilberto Valenzuela, used pepper spray on Schwartz. He also allegedly bit one officer and spit on another. The 42-year-old suspect was arrested near the scene. The dash-cam picks up what happened next.

If you watch the video, it clearly shows Valenzuela being handcuffed on the ground. Seconds later, the officers are seen kicking and punching him in the face, Valenzuela’s body jerks upwards from the force.

There is more. As Valenzuela is being led away to a police car, a third officer, Jason Zangara, can be seen repeatedly punching the cuffed suspect in the face. He then falls to the ground. Valenzuela was charged with robbery, battery and resisting arrest.

Officer Graham resigned from the force last month. Officers Schwartz and Zangara were placed on administrative leave. The incident is under investigation.

Watch the video and judge for yourself.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Bobby Mc

    Round up everyone on the video send them to Guantanamo. They all deserve water-boarding......then jail the water-boarder....

    August 13, 2008 at 11:08 am |
  2. Rachel

    Ha. There's always something on the news about cops beating suspects and such. Nothing new. And everyone wonders why I hate cops? Just because they wear a badge, doesn't make them any better than the rest of us, or gives them the right to tell us what to do. And yes, I hate cops. Period, and I'm proud of it. My brother's a cop, and I'm still gonna say I hate cops.

    August 13, 2008 at 9:32 am |
  3. Mary

    Has anyone ever thought about looking at airport security cameras to see if Caylee was taken either out of the country or to another state? The mom doesn't quite fit the profile of a child killer, she lived off and on with her parents, everyone said that she was a good and loving mom to Caylee. Possible money involved. I don't see the mom gaining anything by killing this child. Where was the payoff? She knew that her parents would take Caylee.

    August 13, 2008 at 8:41 am |
  4. CJ

    I watched the tape and agree that those officers were emotional justified to feel the way they felt but legally and policy wise were not suppose to react that way.

    I also agree with the 10 percent rule that affects all aspects of business in our society, that 90 percent of officers and job workers do thier job honestly and respectful. I would also suggest to the O.M.G (how could they) bloggers, they go do a ride along in thier communities, so you can see first hand and up front the sillyness officers deal with say to day.

    I am in no way saying that these officers reacted the right way, but would suggest that most humans, even the O.M.G. ones on here, who type there dismay would have had a reaction to the actions of this suspect-It may be a bit or alot more controlled and within policy but a reaction of some kind none the less.

    August 13, 2008 at 2:22 am |
  5. Mike in NYC

    To charles-alabama:

    There are five times as many whites as blacks in the US - whites are 65% of the population, blacks less than 13% - so comparing absolute numbers of crimes is meaningless. It’s only by comparing the % of crimes committed by a group with its % of the population that one gets a realistic picture of group behavior.

    I will point out, however, that blacks commit more murders than whites - in fact, as many as all other groups combined - about 50% of all murders.

    The number of people (hundreds?) exonerated by DNA has no effect on the overall stats. The revelation that a particular black did not commit a crime simply means that, in all likelihood, there is another black who did commit that crime and has not been brought to justice.

    Lastly, I wouldn’t expect police beat downs of whites to make the evening news. No political capital to be gained from that.

    August 12, 2008 at 11:45 pm |
  6. charles-alabama

    Mike in NYC,
    I hear what you are saying however
    4)whites committ as many crimes if not more..and I have not personally heard of or seen one getting beat in that manor.
    5)frustration with the system not having enough midnight b-ball does not justify a 4 on 1beating while subdued..I am in no way justifying criminal behavior but as we see each day people are being freed by dna for crimes they didnt committ..the cops job is to enforce the law,judge and jury decide the punishment.
    wonder why minorities dont trust police??

    August 12, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  7. Charlie

    Its amazing that that police officers do not realize they are open to personal litigation for their actions, and they are usually responsible for their own legal representation. Just throw everything away that have worked for, never mind that the negative results it has on their families. Those three or four kicks to the suspect while he was on the ground are going to be pretty expensive.

    August 12, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  8. mark

    It's shame that people always seem to take the side of a loser in handcuffs. It would be be nice if these same people expressed thems selves when a police offer is gunned down or killed in the line of duty. I honestly belive that police officers should take action then ask questions. Reason being, most people in these situations deserve what happens. Who knows what happened prior to this or what was said. I bet that most people could not do a police officers job for fearing for there lives. It's easy to go back and and coulda, shoulda and woulda a situation on somebody but not knowing the emotions of the moment is something different.

    August 12, 2008 at 9:44 pm |
  9. Mario

    I am a retired S.CA Deputy Sjheriff . What so many of you forget it this: These officers were investigated by their dept. for violation of department policy: EXCESSIVE FORCE. The department found thier 3 men guilty. The video is very condeming. Bottom line: If prisoner is handcuffed, you can only use the necessary force required to subdue and immobilize the prisoner. You cannot beat him up or kick him.
    I feel criminal charges should be filed against them. You simply cannot conduct yourself unprofessionally as they did.There is NO EXCUSS!. No what ifs or yeah buts. The 3 officers deserved their fate...

    August 12, 2008 at 9:17 pm |
  10. Caren in Los Angeles/soon-to-be Boston

    For Faith PA: I don't think all the training, laws or enforcement in the world will stop some cops from this type of behavior. I mean, I live in LA, and I've seen the LAPD in action, and it ain't so pretty, ya know. Some of these cops really could care less if they're being taped. Some of them I swear take the job just so they can beat up on, shoot, or intimidate people. Unfortunately, I've never come in contact with a nice cop, so I'm a little biased. Wish I had more hope for more of them, but I just don't. Seen too many videos like this too many times.

    August 12, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  11. Larry

    Geez, the guy is 42 years old. He should have a job and buy his drugs on the corner like everybody else instead of robbing. The in-store camera should be interesting to view.

    August 12, 2008 at 9:04 pm |
  12. AL

    These officers should not have only been fired from their jobs, but they should be arrested for assualt and battery as well. They think they are above the law and this is why I and most people do not trust our police departments. They are suppose to be the people who are to uphold the laws in our country not abuse them. With action like this what is the difference between them and common criminals? They need to be judged by the communities they serves. When an issue like this happens then I think their should be a vote from the citizens as to what will happen to them. This can be done over the internet. This would stop this kind of behavior and let justice become fair for everyone.

    August 12, 2008 at 8:47 pm |
  13. Mike in NYC

    Charles-alabama wrote:

    "Wonder why its always a minority getting their brains beat out??"

    A few possible reasons come to mind:

    (1) Cops having to deal with violent crime committed disproportionately by minorities.

    (2) Cops getting fed up with excuses continually being trotted out for minority crime (e.g., not enough midnight basketball).

    (3) The greater propensity of minority arrestees for obnoxious behavior when in the presence of cops.

    Feel free to add to this list.

    August 12, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  14. Eric from West Palm Beach

    Let's get one thing straight, this was a BAD GUY who was commiting a robbery. The officer came in during a ROBBERY IN PROGRESS, and the suspect fled out the back door. Officer gave chase and caught up with the bad guy. Then the bad guy tried to spray the officer with pepper spray. A brief fight ensues, bad guy is put on the ground. While being handcuffed, suspect bit the officer leg kneeling over him, hence officer struck him in the head and second officer kicked him to stop him from biting his partner. I will admit the second kick was a little over board, but you try turning off your emotions during a high stress incident. The third officer was escorting the suspect to the car when the suspect pulled away from him, turned and spit blood in the officers face. What reaction would you have if some did that to you.
    For those of you who think being a police officer is so easy, please apply and give it a try. I've been to three funerals this month alone for officers killed in the line of duty in Florida; there have been 6 deaths across the country this month, 67 for the year, and last year was a record year. Officers that will never go home to thier families again.
    Just be aware that the news does not report the whole story, and have severely editted this tape. The order of events is completely backwards. Also the injuries sustained by the suspect have been extremely exaggerated. People seem to be hung up on the fact that once a suspect is in handcuffs the fight is over, that is absolutely not true. The amount of damage that a suspect can do while handcuffed is deadly. Any officer that thinks they are safe after the suspect is handcuffed is DEAD WRONG!!!
    Don't get me wrong there are bad cops out there, but the majority of officers caught on tape are usually fighting because they feel threatened or the suspect is resisting. Rule number one in police work is to go home at the end of each shift. And no we don't jerk then around to act like they are resisting, remember....they are bad guys!

    August 12, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  15. Megan Dresslar

    I agree with bloggers, I couldn't believe my eyes!!!!!! what they were thinking???????? I think Police will be charged by hitting innocent person didn't commit crime!!!!!! I don't think that was not good idea police hitting people that is so assault!!! I hope cops will be in the jail...
    I agree with Mike in NY!!!!! LOL he have a good point!!!
    Megan D.
    Shoreline, Wa

    August 12, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  16. Faith Pa

    I would like to point out the number of officers shot, run at with cars, bitten and tested for aides and other diseases this past year. They are subjected to the worst slurs from both the criminal and the crowd standing around yelling for them to shoot the cops. Oh and what about those private citizens that are the victims of the beatings and violence. No one should be mistreated and yes I also believe that we do not see anything but an edited video. These men put thier lives on the line all the time to protect us from people like this man yet they are paid very poorly. One officer resigned and two were terminated for this. Perhaps the answer lies some place between more training , stronger laws, better enforcement by the courts. I know many police were offended by the conduct of these officers but we can not color all with the same brush. Thanks again to the press this man will most likely have a lawyer tomorrow and our tax dollars soon after. Never mind that he just robbed a drugstore for a contoled substance.

    August 12, 2008 at 7:32 pm |
  17. Ben from Maine

    This is still the U.S.A right? For anyone who feels this man got what he deserves let me remind you that in this country it is the job of police to subdue suspects, not punish them.The job of dealing out punisment for crimes falls to judge and jury. There is no question that the police where out of line in this instance. I find this sad that the people these police where realy giving a black eye too are the men and women of law enforcement who risk their lives and do their job with integrity and good judgement. These men should be charged with aggravated assault and face the justice system just like the man they apprihended.

    August 12, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  18. playjojo

    Notice how no one is surprised. Seems to be the norm these days.
    Pretty sad. They only harm themselves, for whenever there's a charge agains't them, it only makes them harder to believe. I'm from Boston, where I believe we're the last state to have mandatory drug and alchohol testing, because "It's unfair" and "unconstitutional" and blah blah, yet we have the highest rate for offences. I'd trust a civilian, before I'd trust a cop. Scary.

    August 12, 2008 at 6:24 pm |
  19. charles-alabama

    wonder why its always a minority getting their brains beat out??

    August 12, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  20. charles-alabama

    wonder how often this sort of thing happened before cameras??

    August 12, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  21. RL

    This happens all the time. I had neighbors ( relatives of cops) tell me simular stories. I had a friend and patrol officer on the Dallas police force tell me of an incident where they (he and his partner) actually had to protect the suspect of a crime from being beaten by the police. Ninety percent of the cops are good guys doing a dangerous job. The other 10% are worse than the guys they arrest and feel above the law. Because they wear the uniform, they are given the benefit of the dought in our courts, that makes them (10%) dangerous to us all.

    August 12, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  22. Peter

    Hey, these cops appear to be way over the line, but the dude was robbing a store. You do bad things, and bad things can happen to you. He did not deserve to get beaten by a couple of gutless bad apple cops just as the CVS did not deserve to get broken into and have their product stolen. Pay it forward, do the right thing, and usually you won't get your jaw broken or lose your job.

    August 12, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  23. Fay, CA

    This is another unfortunate case of police officers who are apparently unable to conduct themselves in a professional manner–shouldn't these officers be trained to deal with a suspect's actions without having to resort to using excessive force?

    August 12, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  24. mark

    The only thing worse than an idiot with a gun, is an idiot with a badge.

    August 12, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  25. Crystal

    I don't see what warranted the punching and kicking. Its 3 to 1. I thought the cops job was not to punish but get him under control? More and more of these type of videos are popping up on the internet. Next time a cop looks at me twice I am just going to lay flat on the floor.

    August 12, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  26. GF, Los Angeles

    LOL very true Mike in NYC!

    August 12, 2008 at 5:00 pm |
  27. Reena , Phoenix AZ

    The officers are armed and out number the suspect. What justification is there for this behaviour against a suspect who is already handcuffed?

    When are we going to see some serious consequences for officers who abuse their power and public trust,.

    August 12, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  28. Mike in NYC

    Look at it this way - Valenzuela probably grew up without a father, and missed the whoopin's that Dads occasionally administer.

    Think of this treatment as (partly) making up for the whoopin's he never got, but richly deserved. He'll be a better man for it.

    I'll also add that Chief Delsa does not fill me with confidence.

    August 12, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  29. Larry

    Don't these cops realize that they are being filmed?

    August 12, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  30. Diane N.

    Officers don't usually take to kindly to being pepper sprayed, bitten and spit on, especially with the threat of catching hepatitis or aids from a suspect during an apprehension. Still three on one weaselly looking punk is a bit much.

    August 12, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  31. Maggie

    I have watched so many of these and it is sickening. I believe there is a percentage of them where the cops actually jerk the suspect making it look like the suspect is resisting.
    Fire them and charge them. That's the only way to stop this. No gray area, I feel then and only then will this stop. Anyone caught after that is just stupid!

    August 12, 2008 at 3:42 pm |
  32. Cindy

    This is just another example of policemen who think that just because they wear a badge that they are above the law and can do as they please. I hope that the two remaining officers are charged and convicted of assaulting Valenzuela.


    August 12, 2008 at 3:34 pm |
  33. Melissa, Los Angeles

    "As Valenzuela is being led away to a police car, a third officer, Jason Zangara, can be seen repeatedly punching the cuffed suspect in the face. He then falls to the ground."

    After viewing the video, you neglect to describe how Valenzuela was resisting the officer which lead to the punches to the face and him falling to the ground. I'd like to see the full video and not parts of video edited together. I notice a lot of media tends to edit out parts to make the criminal look more innocent then they really are. If it's true Valenzuela pepper sprayed, bit and spit on the officers, he deserved all that and then some!

    August 12, 2008 at 3:32 pm |