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Ukiah Police Chief Promises His Agency Will Fully Cooperate with an Independent Investigation into the Recent Use of Force Incident Against a Nude Man

Ukiah Police Department Chief Justin Wyatt addresses the recent use of force incident [Screenshot from video posted on Facebook]

On Monday evening, Ukiah Police Department Chief Justin Wyatt released a video on the agency’s Facebook page addressing the recent use of force incident between UPD officers and Gerardo Magdaleno. Chief Wyatt acknowledged what he described as the community’s “anger and concern.” 

The incident in question occurred on April 1, 2020, when Ukiah Police Department officers tased, pepper-sprayed, and punched Ukiah resident Gerardo Magdaleno. The incident was recorded and shared on social media. Officers took Magdaleno to the hospital where family members say he had facial fractures and a concussion.  In the wake of videos of the event being published, many on social media criticized UPD officers for their actions and, eventually, community members led a protest on Saturday, April 3 holding signs condemning UPD officers’ actions on the steps of the police department.

In his video address, Chief Wyatt said the department was taking the community’s reaction “very seriously” and promised a “full and independent investigation into this manner and this department will participate fully in that investigation.” 

***WARNING: The video is difficult to watch and portrays police use of force***

We spoke with Andrea Sullivan, a criminal defense attorney who has represented numerous residents of the Emerald Triangle, and she characterized UPD’s use of force as “beating someone for the sake of beating him.”

In a press release following the incident, Ukiah Police Department characterized the punches Magdaleno received as “distraction strikes” stating, “The Officers then attempted to gain compliance by delivering numerous distraction strikes to the suspect’s head. This allowed the Officers a brief opportunity to place Magdaleno into handcuffs, and then the technique was ceased.”

In yesterday’s video, Chief Wyatt assured Ukiah residents that UPD is “a department that is committed to being a well-trained police department that operates within our policies. We want our policies to serve our community and our officers on the frontline.”

In addition, Chief Wyatt made an opaque statement regarding the specific officers involved in the use of force incident stating a review of the incident “will include personnel matters and I am unable to comment on those at this time.”

In a press release published at approximately the same time as Chief Wyatt’s statement, Ukiah City Manager Sage Sangiacomo said, “The City also intends to seek an independent review of the existing policies to determine whether they could be augmented or otherwise improved.”

Sangiacomo explained the incident prompted community “questions about the nature of police response when addiction or mental health issues are involved. We share the community’s concern that there are not more robust options for addressing these challenges.” He added that “We are hopeful that the funding resulting from County Measure B can be used to help provide those resources.”

Mendocino County resident gather on the steps leading to the Ukiah Police Department protesting April 1st’s use of force incident [Picture by Matt LaFever]

Francisco Magdaleno, Geraldo’s brother, told us Monday yesterday evening, “I cannot express to you the hardship this event has brought upon my family. Not only was my brother’s body marred by physical abuse, but his mental health and well-being [were damaged].”

As to Magdaleno’s current status, his brother told us, “Gerardo is currently trying to recover and has a hard time trusting anyone in uniform. As a family, we are trying to get him the support and aid he needs.

In the wake of the incident, Francisco said his family “has become the target to malicious comments and statements, nonconstructive or helpful.”

Francisco explained his brother Geraldo’s beating had “marred everyone in the family in different ways.” He explained “my mother, who also has medical needs, is terrified for my brother’s well-being. In an act of selflessness, [she] has opted to put her life and needs on hold to care [for] and protect Gerardo.”

Francisco said he and his family hope that this experience will “bring some type of reform, education, and awareness of mental health needs in our community.”

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5 replies »

  1. If I hit police in the head it equals “felony assault”
    If they hit me in the head it is only distraction?
    “But words will never harm me”

  2. I think you should try understand what its like being a police officer an maybe you wouldnt be using such juvenile statements. in most countries you could lose your life, for runnin around high an naked .if an officer hits you anywhere it means stop an listen. its your job to understand, not the cops, if you are high an naked you got no business on the street. nobody wants to see sum naked guy runnin thru their neighbor hood or a drunk. if you have those desires stay home, no need to share.

  3. What if it was a child naked and crazy? Police need to think before they use violence. When verbal commands don’t work, violence should not be automatic response. This was fear driven, police are afraid of crazy, they need to be trained in non violent deescalation. Cop should have waited for back up before trying to “save the day”

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