Following an investigation, the Orange County district attorney’s office declined to press charges against Anaheim police officers in the death of Justin Perkins, 38, last year. The incident sparked controversy, a protest march and a wrongful death lawsuit filed by attorneys for the family.
Both the OCDA and Anaheim police have made body-worn camera footage from the altercation available, giving the public a broader picture of what happened.
According to the OCDA report, police arrived to the Madison Park apartment complex in West Anaheim on the morning of Oct. 27, 2018 to investigate a reported assault and battery incident. A maintenance worker told officers Kenny Lee and Shiao Wang that Perkins had punched him in the head without provocation and wanted to prosecute him for assault and battery.
The two officers knocked on the door of the apartment where Perkins stayed with his uncle. They began questioning him, asking for identification as well as what medications he took. Although Perkins keep the door only slight ajar and spoke gibberish at times, he initially cooperated with police, informing them of two prescription medications he took–ones used to treat bipolar disorder.
Wang wanted to search Perkins for weapons next; Perkins wanted to shut the door on the officers, instead. The cop stopped the door from closing all the way and asked to speak with Perkins’ father.
“Fight, fight who?” Perkins said, in between gibberish. “You want to fight? Please fight. You want to?”
“At this point, officer Lee in his mind believed that the scenario had changed from conducting an investigation to fighting for his life, due to the extent of his bleeding,” the report reads. “Officer Lee stated that he was in shock and was not sure how long he would last in the fight, especially in light of the injury to his right hand.”
The brawl continued in the hallway with Perkins managing to get Lee into a headlock. Officers responded with Taser strikes, punches and even a baton swing to the head, but nothing seemed to subdue him.
With all of the commotion, Mike Perkins, Justin’s uncle, came out of the apartment. When speaking to reporters at a press conference announcing the lawsuit in February, Mike wore a blue shirt that claimed his nephew “was beaten and choked to death.” Recounting the altercation, Mike says he told the police to stop hitting Justin, that he had a mental disorder and had cognitive difficulties–cautions that didn’t register in the midst of the melee.
Those pleas aren’t audible in the video released. During the fight, Mike tried to get his nephew to calm down and let the cops do their job.
The fight continued until the officers wrestled Perkins to the ground. Wang put another carotid restraint hold until Perkins started snoring. Lee cuffed his hands and called paramedics to the scene. Other officers arrived first, one of whom did a sternum rub that got Perkins to sit up and become alert again. Another officer asked if he could get up on his feet. With help, Perkins stood up and started walking before resisting officers’ efforts again. They put him down on the ground and tried to hobble-tie his legs.
Later, Perkins stopped breathing and didn’t register a pulse. Paramedics transferred him to West Anaheim Medical Center where he remained in a coma until Oct. 31 when pronounced deceased.
Lee lost part of his pinkie finger in the fight and Wang suffered a hand fracture. Both cops underwent surgery for their injuries.
After conducting an autopsy, a doctor ruled the cause of death to be “accidental” as a result of combined drug intoxication after finding Methorphan, a cough suppressant, and Bupropion, an antidepressant, in his system. Perkins showed signs of pneumonia.
The autopsy report helped inform the OCDA’s decision not to press charges against the officers.
“It is clear that the conduct of the officers in attempting to stop Perkins’ attack was completely reasonable under the circumstances,” the report concluded. “What began as a misdemeanor assault investigation by the officers quickly turned into the officers fighting for their lives.”
As always, read the report in its entirety online.
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!