Earlier this month, 34-year-old Marc LeBeau was clocked at driving 95 mph in a 65 mph zone on Loop 202 in Mesa, when he was pulled over by a trooper from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Yet, here is where the clarity of the incident ends and the questions begin. Was this a case of resisting arrest vs. excessive force?
Different Accounts of the Same Event
According to the trooper, LeBeau was slow to pull over, and when he did, he acted suspiciously. He opened the door of his car and leaned toward the ground. His behaviour was indicative of someone who was under the influence, and the trooper informed LeBeau he was under arrest. So, officers ordered LeBeau, who was not wearing shoes, out of the car. At this point, the official story reports, LeBeau refused to be put in handcuffs and instead shoved the police officer.
It was then that the officer had to use force to take LeBeau down, where he was burned by the hot pavement. Captain Damon Cecil, of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, explains the actions of the arresting officer: "Our trooper wanted to take Mr. LeBeau into custody as quickly as possible, and that's all I can really do,” Cecil said. "We can't just not do our jobs because somebody decides to not wear shoes."
LeBeau’s account of the tale is a bit different. According to LeBeau, when he stepped out of the car, he bounced a bit because the pavement was so hot. He denies pushing the trooper. The officer pushed him to the ground. LeBeau claims he was moving and twisting to avoid being burned by the pavement, which reached 165 degrees that day, hot enough to cook steak. LeBeau says he asked repeatedly if he could put his sandals on, and he was denied. LeBeau ended up with second degree burns on his face and hands from the incident, which was partially captured on a cell phone video by a passerby (when the video begins, LeBeau is already down).
LeBeau was treated on the scene and at a local hospital for minor burns and scrapes then booked on charges of DUI and held in the Maricopa County Jail. He faces charges of criminal speeding, resisting arrest, and driving under the influence. LeBeau says he plans to fight the charges. Based on the conflicting stories, the question of resisting arrest vs. excessive force comes in to play.
Resisting Arrest vs. Excessive Force
But LeBeau’s case does bring up questions about resisting arrest vs. excessive force. When is it permissible to resist arrest, and when are extenuating circumstances enough to make officers reconsider a charge? Where is the line between enforcing arrest and excessive force? I recently wrote about how police body cams are a promising way to increase accountability and safety for both officer and defendant. And though LeBeau’s case is muddy in a lot of ways, one thing about it is clear: if the officer had been wearing a body cam, there wouldn’t be so many questions about whose story was the true one.
If you’re facing legal charges, make sure you have a great lawyer in your corner, one who isn’t afraid to take on the establishment to protect your rights.