April 2, 2021 —In the wake of a summer of protests against police brutality, two short videos from behind a shop window show four Ukiah police officers repeatedly punching a man whose sisters have identified as Gerardo Magdaleno.
One shows the nude man getting up off the ground and walking slowly toward an officer. The officer shouts at him repeatedly to get back on the ground. The video is blurry, but according to Ukiah police logs at that address, Officer Saul Perez responded a few minutes before 3pm.
Another video shows two officers holding the man down on his back by the arms and punching his head repeatedly while a third officer stands by, rolling up his sleeves. A fourth runs toward the scene and grabs his legs. They force him onto his belly and three officers hold him down while one continues to deliver short, sharp blows to his head.
A third video, filmed from across the street, shows the nude man standing underneath the sign for Alderwood Apartments, about a car’s length from an officer. A minute and twelve seconds in, another officer approaches, walking fast. Both policemen raise their arms, pointing something at the man. Ten seconds later, the man falls over backward and the beating begins.
Magdaleno, a schizophrenic military veteran, had been staying with his sister, Luna Magdaleno. She said her brother left around noon yesterday. He had been out of his medications for two days and taken LSD.
She found out what happened to him that afternoon, when someone sent her the videos.
“He wasn’t being aggressive or disrespectful,” she said. “I understand that being nude in public is indecent exposure, but you can clearly tell that he’s in his own world at that moment. For the cops to come and do that thing to him the way that they did, instead of de-escalating the situation, they made it worse. They’re saying, in the report that they’re printing, that one of the cops was hurt, but he was injured obviously because they beat the fuck out of my brother.”
Another sister, Nemesis Garcia, said Luna sent her the videos right away, while she was at work. “I was just a chaos, like, I couldn’t even finish what I was doing,” she said. “He wasn’t even attacking them. They did an oath to protect people, and what they’re doing is not protecting people. They’re violating that oath.”
Ukiah Police Chief Justin Wyatt said he was unable to comment at this time. A press release that came out this afternoon said Magdaleno failed to respond to simple orders and that he took a fighting stance when officers issued instructions. The original call for service was made to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, but Ukiah Police regularly monitor radio traffic from MCSO in order to assist, especially if the call is on the border between the two jurisdictions. According to the press release, Magdaleno was running in and out of traffic while naked, and that he appeared to be intoxicated.
Black Lives Matter activist Troyle Tognoli would like to hear what the chief has to say, especially in the wake of former officer Kevin Murray facing multiple criminal charges, including sexual assault. “That would send a huge echo as to why these things are occurring, what steps are being taken, if any, to address it, and just how deep are we into this type of behavior. You know, UPD, there was a time when they were really pulling their shit together. But this is not good.”
Ukiah Mayor Juan Orozco said he believes a lack of training is to blame.
“This man didn’t have a weapon,” he said, “he didn’t seem to be threatening, so why go about the way they did it? And it’s clearly a lack of training.”
“That is bullshit,” said Tognoli. “What you saw is the training. I’m not sure it’s sanctioned by the department, and I would doubt very seriously it is. Considering we have the Eight Can’t Wait campaign, that the Ukiah Police Department has endorsed, they have spoken publicly about really wanting to change some of their policies and practices.”
Magdaleno and Garcia said earlier this afternoon that they’re trying to find their brother. Magdaleno bailed him out this morning, after he spent the night in jail and returned to the hospital.
Lt. John Bednar of the Mendocino County jail said the Ukiah police sent Magdaleno to a local hospital for a medical clearance before bringing him in for booking. He spent the night in jail and went back to the hospital sometime before seven o’ clock this morning. His sisters say that nurses at the Ukiah hospital told them they had no record of him. Unofficially, they learned that he had facial fractures and a concussion.
He’s been charged with two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and possession of drug paraphernalia. He’s also charged with resisting or threatening an officer, which is a felony. Magdeleno is skeptical.
“My brother was butt naked,” she said. “Where in the fuck is he gonna put the drugs? Up his ass?” The press release said that, following the alteration with Magdaleno, officers located a glass pipe in a pair of sweatpants that Magdaleno had been wearing prior to the first calls for service.
Garcia spoke for both sisters: “We just want him to be okay. And we want justice.”