Allentown police are reviewing an arrest early Saturday morning in south Allentown that captured attention on social media because of the officers’ use of force.
The video — taken on a resident’s surveillance camera and posted on Facebook — was viewed more than 20,000 times in five hours.
It’s unclear why police were called to the 700 block of South Filmore Street, but the video, which does not include audio, shows that at 1:45 a.m., about eight officers were on the scene when John Perez, 34, of Allentown, approached them.
Perez, who was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, said Saturday night that he believes they were responding to a domestic disturbance. Officers parked on his family member’s property on South Filmore Street, he said, and he approached them to find out what was going on.
Perez said they hurled profanities and insults at him, so he suggested a fistfight to settle things. That, he said, is when an officer pushed him, and others joined in to force him to the ground.
According to an affidavit filed in court, officers were heading back to their vehicles after wrapping up a call when Perez started arguing with them.
“Out of nowhere the defendant showed up and mentioned something along the lines of ‘you guys feel good about yourselves talking like that,’ ” Officer Jose Lebron said in the affidavit.
Perez then mentioned “something about our guns and took an aggressive step toward me,” Lebron said.
Lebron told Perez to step back and get out of his face, according to the affidavit, which said Perez raised his arm and clenched his fist. An officer pushed Perez’s hand away, Lebron wrote in the document, and Lebron again told him, “Get out of my face.”
When Perez didn’t back off, Lebron pushed him, according to the affidavit. Perez then “charged at me with both fists closed,” Lebron said, adding that Perez was trying to pull him down. That’s when other officers assisted Lebron in subduing Perez and handcuffing him.
The video shows four officers taking Perez to the ground and at least four others also on the scene.
Capt. Bill Lake said the department evaluates officers’ use of force. Lake said the department will investigate the surveillance video to determine its legitimacy and to see what happened before the clip that was posted online.
“Any incident like this, it is evaluated later,” Lake said. “We’ll be taking steps to evaluate this one.”
Perez, his family and many who commented on Facebook said the video shows officers assaulting Perez.
“They just started beating me, hitting me, almost tore my arm out of place,” Perez, who was released on unsecured bail, said Saturday night at his Center City home.
He said he went to the hospital at 5 p.m., about 15 hours after he was arrested, because he was in pain. He said he has a broken nose, injured shoulder, swelling, and scrapes and bruises from his hips to his shoulder because officers punched and kneed him.
He told his brother, Eduardo Perez, that the reference to him mentioning a gun was just him asking an officer to put his gun aside for a fair fight, Eduardo Perez said.
“You push my brother and then you’re saying you were arresting him after you pushed him?” Eduardo Perez said. “And then you say he’s resisting? How was he resisting, you never came for him?”
John Perez said he plans to hire an attorney both to defend him in his criminal case and to pursue a misconduct case against the Allentown police.
Perez acknowledged that he’s had run-ins with police before, including stints behind bars.
“When I was really young, I got in trouble,” he said.
He has been convicted of reckless endangerment, firearms and drug crimes as well as disorderly conduct, according to court records.
This time, he said, “I feel like I was not in the wrong at all. To give me charges for something that I didn’t do, and then on top of that for [putting me] through the situation and going through the pain and headache, I didn’t have to go through that, you know.”