Johnson testified that Green’s teeth were knocked out when they fell. Green says he fell onto his back, and that he was injured after he was already on the ground.
Johnson said that once Green was on the ground, he punched the 16-year-old, to prevent Green from spitting blood on him.
Green and his lawyer also said that while Johnson held him on him the ground, first waiting for handcuffs and then for a uniformed officer, Johnson pressed the full weight of his body onto Green, making it almost impossible for him to breathe. Green said he thought he was going to suffocate. At the time of the incident, the teenage Green weighed 130 pounds, while Johnson totaled 220 pounds. Johnson told the court he used proper police procedure to detain Green.
There’s a key point in the surveillance video, when Green argued the officer slammed his face into the floor. Green’s legs appear to jerk upward in response to the blow.
Johnson denied that he ever thrust Green’s head to the floor.
“That’s me rolling Mr. Green back,” Johnson testified. “I picked him up by his shoulders and rolled him back over to his stomach.”
Johnson denied that it was a use of force.
“I just view that as rolling him back over. We roll people over all the time to pat them down,” he said.
Johnson testified that Green was carrying a “black digital scale” which he said made him believe Green could be involved in selling drugs and could be carrying a gun.
“In my experience people who carry black digital scales are involved in the narcotics trade,” Johnson told the jury. The scale was never entered into evidence, and cannot be seen on the video. Johnson said it was returned back to Green. Green said there was never any scale.
There’s another claim made by the defense: that after Green was arrested, Johnson staged the scene to support the story he was building about how Green got injured.
After Green was taken away in handcuffs, the video shows Johnson returning to the stack of handheld shopping baskets.
Johnson can be seen taking the baskets out of the holder and placing them near the middle of the aisle. He puts the baskets down almost exactly where they landed after Green first went down and then he snaps a picture. Later that photograph would end up attached to the police report with no explanation and no mention of the re-positioning. On the stand, Johnson said he moved the baskets and photographed them “to show the narrowness of the aisle.”
The jury found Johnson acted with “malice, oppression or fraud,” and that his partner, Officer Wong, failed to stop the excessive use of force and played a role in Green’s false arrest. Green and his lawyer decided not to ask for punitive damages in exchange for the defendants waiving their right to appeal and promising to pay the awarded amount within 60 days.
Piccuta said that he believed the video footage made all the difference in the jury’s verdict.
“I don’t know that we would have as strong a chance of winning this case, but for the video,” he said.
Both Johnson and Wong are currently employed as police officers in the city of Stockton. Last year, Wong was promoted to Sergeant. In 2018, Johnson was selected as officer of the year.