Suspect stunned three times
The suspect’s family plans to file a formal complaint alleging excessive force against the officers involved.
Posted: 6:59 PM Dec 27, 2010
Christmas arrest sparks criticism in South Bend Reporter: Mark Peterson
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christmas arrest sparks criticism in South Bend
South Bend Police say multiple shocks from a stun gun had little to no affect on a combative suspect they encountered on Christmas morning.
Meantime, the suspect’s family plans to file a formal complaint alleging excessive force against the officers involved.
A mug shot of 30 year old Mitchell Burton shows a bruised right eye that is swollen shut. Family members say they were told that Mitchell Burton also suffered a fractured facial bone.
Burton graduated from Clay High School in South Bend but now lives in New Orleans. Family members say Mitchell has a Master’s degree and works on an offshore oil rig.
Burton was said to be visiting family and friends in South Bend over the Christmas holiday.
Burton apparently crossed paths with South Bend police about 4:30 Christmas morning, when officers were called about a hit and run accident in the 600-block of Birdsell Street.
Officers allegedly found Burton asleep or unconscious behind the wheel of a rental car—with that car still in gear.
When officers woke Burton up, Burton allegedly tried to drive away.
That’s when officers broke out the driver’s side window, and removed Burton from the car.
“This is multiple minutes of fighting officers, being kicked, punched, you know uniforms being ripped, they’re rolling around on the ground, eventually, and the major problem is, the officers can’t get this individual’s hands in front of him and he’s screaming to the officers that he’s armed with a pistol,” said South Bend Police Capt. Phil Trent.
Trent said that three officers were involved in the original confrontation with Burton, but that Burton wasn’t successfully restrained until two additional officers arrived on scene.
“My brother was tased three times, and I think that’s more than enough to put somebody down,” said Derrick Burton, Mitchell Burton’s brother. “His job is important to him back home and he wouldn’t jeopardize his job over fighting with some police.”
Derrick Burton said that his brother did not phone anyone from jail until Monday morning. “Today was his first day speaking to my brother and he doesn’t know what happened, how he even got there.”
Michael Burton came to South Bend from his home in Wisconsin when he heard what had happened to his youngest son Mitchell. “I don't think he fought three officers, no way, my son wouldn’t risk anything like that.”
Michael Burton went to the accident scene and found the parked pickup truck that was allegedly struck in the hit and run accident. The truck showed no apparent damage at the alleged point of impact—the front bumper. The truck also appeared to be disabled with a flat tire and plastic taped over at least two broken windows.
In the snow near the scene of the incident, Michael Burton found a pool of his son’s blood. “And I’m here to file a formal complaint you understand, justice must prevail, but if you can’t trust the people that’s supposed to be protecting you, who can you trust?”
The family also talked to a resident of Birdsell, Ray Alexander, who says he witnessed the Christmas morning altercation.
“He (Mitchell Burton) never stood up, I never saw his face or his head, I never saw him stand up at all, all I know he was on the ground, they pulled him directly out the car, bam, he never stood up, how could he, how could he fight?” said Alexander.
Alexander also claims that he saw an officer go to the trunk of a nearby squad car and remove a bottle of water. “They got the bottled water out, took they, put they boot up like that, took the bottled water and was rinsing the blood off.”
Another resident of the block who asked not to be identified said he also saw an officer washing blood of his boots and hands.
Capt. Phil Trent said he believes at least one squad car camera captured the incident on tape, although he personally hadn’t seen that tape.
“The officers are being thrown around and they’re afraid that what’s going to happen is he’s going to break free, he’s going to withdraw a weapon and an officer is going to get shot,” Capt. Trent said.
Capt. Trent could not release the tape because it is considered evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation.
The Burton family is perhaps more sensitive about alleged police brutality than most. In 2007, in New Orleans, 53 year old Terry Burton was killed when he was shot by a Louisiana National Guardsman.
Terry Burton had a mental disability and was riding a bike and carrying a hacksaw when he attracted the attention of guardsman. Guardsmen then confronted Burton who allegedly threatened them with a knife before throwing pieces of glass.
Soldiers later followed Burton into an empty house where Burton pointed what one soldier thought was a rifle. Burton was shot several times and killed at the scene. Afterward it was learned that he was holding a BB gun.
Michael Burton says that Terry Burton was his brother.