EDITOR’S NOTE: The body camera footage is located at the end of the article.
CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad Police Department released body camera footage today, along with an official timeline of an arrest in which two officers restrained and cited an unarmed black male for public intoxication and resisting arrest on Thursday evening.
A cellphone video of the incident was released on June 12, which depicts two Carlsbad Police officers tase and arrest Marcel Cox-Harshaw, 27, of San Diego. The video was shared on social media and quickly garnered local attention.
Speaking with the Coast News on June 13, Carlsbad Assistant Police Chief Mickey Williams provided further information on the arrest, walking through body camera footage and answering questions.
As described on the City of Carlsbad’s incident timeline, Williams confirmed Carlsbad Fire Department EMT’s were dispatched to the corner of Ponto Road and Carlsbad Boulevard at 8:48 p.m. to check on a man that was reported “laying face down near the road, possibly unconscious.”
The Fire Department arrived several minutes before law enforcement to “keep the peace and allow the fire department to treat the person, making sure everyone stayed safe,” Williams said.
However, Williams said the subject was not cooperative with EMTs upon their arrival.
As shown on the body camera footage, the suspect raises his voice and appears to step closer to the responding EMTs. According to Williams, both the officers and firemen recognized symptoms of intoxication.
“Ultimately, it was proven the subject’s [blood alcohol content] was nearly three times above the legal limit,” Williams said.
Officers reported the suspect repeatedly “clenched and unclenched his fists, [growing] extremely agitated.”
“The man became aggressive towards the firemen, quickly closing in distance, getting within less than a foot of the face one of the firemen.”
At that point, officers viewed the suspect in violation of 647 F of the California Penal Code, being “drunk in public to the extent where you’re a danger to yourself or others.”
“The intent of the officers was to handcuff him, arrest him for being drunk in public and then allow him to detox and be released without charges.”
At 37 seconds into the body camera footage, one of the officers can be seen communicating a nonverbal command with his partner to handcuff the man.
Within seconds of attempting to restrain the man, both body cameras of the officers involved were knocked off their chests and fell to the ground, causing a two-minute visual blackout in the footage while audio remained intact.
The cellphone video captured by Joseph Cox, a local man who noticed the events unfolding, begins during the two minutes in which police body cameras were blacked out, showing officers tasing and handcuffing the man while on the ground.
“Our policy permits us to use tasers when [we’re] dealing with a violently resistive person,” Williams said. “The officer initially tried to use the taser in the least harmful manner by taking off the barbs, [however] it was unsuccessful because the person had baggy clothes on. The officer then put the barbs back in the cartridge. One of the barbs connected with the subject’s chest and one got lodged in his pants… but was again unsuccessful because the person had multiple pants on. That’s why through the recording you hear multiple applications of the taser clicking.”
As seen in Cox’s footage, the officers used their body weight to pin the man to the ground, placing a hand on the top of his head to “prevent him from injuring himself on the concrete” or potentially biting an officer — an issue Williams said the Carlsbad police have dealt with before.
At this point, Cox’s video shows the officers replacing their body cameras, as visual footage resumes. Through the two minutes, the subject can be heard yelling, “This is what you stand for… you want equality… this is what you stand for.”
At 4:05, officers can be seen placing a white mesh “spit sock” on the suspect’s face.
According to Carlsbad Police, the spit sock utilized was made of a breathable mesh material made to restrict the transmission of droplets and moisture.
“It doesn’t cause injury or impede the person’s ability to breathe,” Williams said. “Since COVID-19, we’ve required our officers to put masks on anybody they transport in their patrol cars. [The spit sock] is only used when necessary under the circumstances to prevent exposure [to COVID.]”
After the officers handcuffed the subject, they rotated him to his side, a “position of recovery” to ensure the subject is able to breathe freely and their airways remain open in the event of possible vomiting, Williams said.
The subject was then moved to a gurney, placed in an ambulance and taken to Scripps Encinitas, a local hospital to receive medical treatment.
Williams confirmed the suspect received only one injury, a minor puncture wound from a taser dart to the chest. Once the suspect had arrived at Scripps, he was sedated and held overnight before being discharged the following morning.
The same day of the incident, Carlsbad Police Department announced they adopted a countywide San Diego County Police Chiefs and Sheriff’s Association De-Escalation Philosophy which “requires when law enforcement is called upon to respond to a crisis or criminal act, they will, if reasonable under the circumstances, use tactics and techniques to persuade the individual to voluntarily comply.”
“It’s important for our officers to, as quickly as possible, differentiate between a criminal crisis and a mental crisis.”
The Carlsbad Police categorized this incident as a “mental crisis,” stating the subject exhibited disorientation, hyper-aggression, incoherent shouting, and paranoia, symptoms of a psychological state defined as, “excited delirium.”
Williams noted, “there isn’t one push, one pull, one use of force after the subject is handcuffed,” stating that once a subject is restrained, police are instructed to immediately transition to a caretaking role.
“That transition to caretaker is a challenge but it is what we expect our police officers to do. For our police officers to be able to handle this situation as professionally as they did, with no serious injuries and getting this person to the hospital so they could recover… I’m proud of them,” Williams said.
Within hours of the incident, supervisors at the Carlsbad Police department reviewed the body camera footage and police reports. “I would’ve been upset with our officers if they would have left that person on the sidewalk all by himself,” Williams said. “Based on his actions and his level of intoxication, he was either going to hurt himself or somebody else.”
Cox spoke to the Coast News about witnessing the scene unfold and deciding to stop and film the incident with his cell phone.
“I heard screaming through my window and I stopped my truck and jumped out… turned on my video camera and ran to the scene. It was very upsetting… it really struck a deep chord,” Cox said. “[When] I turned off the video, I said [to him] ‘Good luck. Good luck, my friend. We’ve got your back.”
Reporter’s Note: Carlsbad Police Department has committed to total transparency in regards to the body camera footage and other pertinent information, quickly responding to requests and on-going questions.