A man who was being treated for mental health issues has been put into an induced coma after being hit by a police car and having an officer appear to stomp on his head in Australia.
Victoria Police has suspended a senior constable with full pay and the watchdog is investigating the incident, following calls from civil rights groups for an urgent inquiry.
Footage captured by shocked onlookers showed the man walking down a busy road in the northern suburb of Epping, waving his arms and shouting at police car with its siren on, which proceeds to drive into him at speed from behind, sending him flying.
Several minutes later, a group of police officers can be seen surrounding him as he lay on the ground, with one appearing to stomp on his head as he tries to get up - prompting a bystander to gasp: “Are you f****** kidding me?”
One visibly alarmed witness told 7News, which obtained the footage, that officers had punched and kicked the man “multiple times”, before stomping on his head “while he was down, which was absolutely disgusting”.
The father-of-three was being treated at Epping’s Northern Hospital for a bipolar episode when he fled on Sunday. Fearing for his safety, staff called the police.
Victoria Police claimed he had assaulted an officer and was resisting arrest.
“Police were called to Cooper Street, Epping, to reports of a male behaving erratically about 4.10pm,” Victoria Police said in a statement on Sunday night. “Upon arrival the male allegedly became aggressive and damaged a police vehicle whilst attempting to avoid arrest.
“During the highly dynamic incident a police officer was assaulted and OC spray was deployed before the man was arrested and subsequently taken to hospital for assessment. The arrest has been referred to Professional Standards Command for oversight.”
His family is calling for an independent inquiry into the incident.
“It is like watching a video from America or Beirut,” his father told the Herald Sun.
“Police are not above the law, they should be held accountable. They were kicking him and he wasn’t even fighting back. It was extremely excessive.”
Jeremy King, a lawyer who is representing the family, said that criminal charges could likely be laid against some of the arresting officers.
“I think the last incident regarding the stomp on the head when he is already restrained on the ground could well lead to criminal charges,” he told Nine Network’s Today programme.
“I think it would be appropriate given the gravity of the situation. That’s probably as bad as I’ve seen in terms of police misconduct, the stomping on the head, it’s such a dangerous, violent act,” Mr King said.
State police minister Lisa Neville said the officers were in “difficult circumstances”, but added there were “concerning aspects of the arrest, particularly at the end”.
Anthony Kelly executive office of the Flemington-Kensington legal centre’s Police Accountability Project said the independent anti-corruption watchdog, IBAC, must investigate the arrest.
The incident came hours after footage emerged of Victoria Police officers dragging a woman who refused to give her personal details from her car at a checkpoint.
While the Police Accountability Project said the two incidents did not appear to have been facilitated by the state of disaster declared in Victoria as a result of Covid-19, the Flemington-Kensington legal centre has raised concerns that increased powers handed to police during the pandemic could normalise heavy policing.