Jamaar Williams (right) walks on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix toward a line of Phoenix police officers during an immigration protest on July 12, 2019. Williams was arrested for alleged assault of police officers, but county prosecutors dropped those charges. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror
County prosecutors didn’t follow the recommendation of the Phoenix Police Department to charge Jamaar Williams, who was among the 16 people arrested on July 12 during an immigration protest in downtown Phoenix, with assault of police officers.
Williams and another man, Jakob Beskind, were the only ones arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer that night. A municipal judge quickly dismissed the cases for 14 others who Phoenix police arrested.
In a court document where an officer documents reasons for arrest, known as the Form IV, police claimed Williams “committed aggravated assault” on two police officers, including Officer Darell Magee.
— Laura GomezRodriguez (@bylauragomezr) July 16, 2019
Lawyers representing the state dropped the assault claims.
Williams’ attorney, Thomas Henager, said it’s not surprising prosecutors didn’t follow through with police recommendations.
“In no way did Mr. Williams ever assault a police officer, so it is not surprising that the State declined to go forward with assault charges against him,” Henager said in an email to Arizona Mirror.
Prosecutors are still charging Williams with resisting arrest, which is a felony. He also faces two misdemeanor charges for unlawful assembly and obstructing a highway or other public thoroughfare.
Williams is a public defender in Maricopa County.
Most of the police officers were not wearing body cameras during the protest, which was attended by hundreds to denounce border and immigration policies that are impacting the health and well-being of migrant families. Some demonstrators blocked Central Avenue and light rail transit lanes.
The night’s resolution soured relationships between a police department already under public scrutiny to do better and community members who said their peace officers were too aggressive, including the case of a man who was speaking to the press when officers tackled and arrested him.
Violent crime charges for spraying silly string at cops
Beskind faces two felony charges for aggravated assault of a police officer.
In a court document, police said Beskind pulled out a can during the protest, pointed it at police officers and “sprayed two officers in the face area, striking their face shields on there (sic) riot helmets and chest with this unknown chemical agent.”
The night after Beskind’s arrest, his father, Jason Beskind, told the Mirror the can contained Silly String. He said his son shot the aerosol toy substance at a handheld camera a police officer was using the record the night’s events.
Phoenix police Sgt. Mercedes Fortune said coming up to an officer in a high-stress situation and spraying them with something is a big deal, regardless of whether police were hurt.
“It’s sad to know that someone would take that initiative to cause anxiety for an officer to feel like they’re being threatened,” she said. “Some people would even think it’s humorous. I don’t find humor in that.”
“We remain professional. But as the law states, it’s an aggravated assault, not because of the string itself, but your intention was to come out to the officer and spray him or her with something,” Fortune explained.
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