Melbourne, Australia – John installed a CCTV system at his house in Melbourne’s northern suburbs after it was burgled a few years back.
It was supposed to capture robbers — not police.
But the video it recorded in October 2017 shows a number of Victoria Police officers dragging the disability pensioner into his front yard, where he is pinned to the ground.
One officer repeatedly beats John across the lower legs.
“I thought I was going to die,” John told 7.30.
John was ill and distressed, withdrawing from the pain medication he has been on since his back surgery.
He has anxiety and depression and his health carers called emergency services, concerned by his deteriorating mental state.
He also has a minor assault on his police record from 10 years ago.
Police dispatch notes warned that John may confront police and attempt to provoke them into shooting him.
From behind his locked screen door John repeatedly pleaded with police to leave him alone.
But police threatened to break down the door.
When John did open the door police allege he came at them with two raised fists.
But the video shows him appearing to try to fend off an officer approaching him with a canister of capsicum spray.
Moments later, he was pinned to the ground by the police. One sprayed him with the capsicum centimetres from his face.
There was a watering can nearby that could have been used to wash off the capsicum spray.
Instead, one of the officers got the garden hose and aimed it at John’s face at maximum pressure.
“He’s aiming for my nostrils and it’s going into my lungs — and that’s when I started choking from the water and from the hot mace going into my respiratory [system],” he said.
“I couldn’t breathe.
“I really, literally, thought I was going to drown.
“You can feel the mace and the water together in your lungs.”
The video shows one of the policemen smiling as he pulls his phone out and appears to capture the moment the officer aims the jet of water into John’s eyes for a third time.
“It was like a game for them. They wanted to get their rocks off, you know?” John said.
None of the six officers present that day raised concerns about their colleagues’ behaviour in the police notes of the incident.
But John won’t be complaining. At least, not to police.
He has no faith that police will investigate it fairly.
Instead, he has taken his case to the state’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC), and is also launching a civil case.
Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius , the acting head of Professional Standards Command at Victoria Police, said he was “very concerned” after seeing the vision for the first time last week.
“The conduct displayed on the CCTV demanded examination and explanation. The members involved clearly needed to be called to account for their conduct,” he said.
He said he ordered an investigation after viewing the video but was later advised IBAC had begun its own inquiry, which takes the lead.
Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said he was unable to comment any further on the incident “because doing so may generate the perception that I might be seeking to influence IBAC or pre-judge the outcomes of their investigation”.