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Criminal probe launched into Pima County deputy's fight with teen quadruple amputee
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Criminal probe launched into Pima County deputy's fight with teen quadruple amputee

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A screenshot of a video recorded in September shows Manuel Van Santen, a Pima County sheriff’s deputy, holding down a 15-year-old quadruple amputee in a local group home.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has launched a criminal investigation into a deputy’s conduct after a video showing him tackling a 15-year-old quadruple amputee to the ground during an arrest in September at a group home has gone viral.

Deputy Manuel Van Santen was placed on administrative leave Friday after the Pima County Public Defender’s Office released the eight-minute video last week that shows a portion of an altercation between Van Santen and two teen residents at a group home on Sept. 26. The teen was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, though the charge was later dropped.

Sheriff Mark Napier said the department received the video from a local media outlet Wednesday and notified the Office of Professional Standards that afternoon.

“The conduct we observed on the video at face value is shocking, disturbing and personally saddening to watch,” Napier said in a news release Monday. “However, we understand that a short video segment may not represent the complete picture of any incident.”

Napier said he authorized a criminal investigation into the incident Friday morning. The department will not be commenting until the investigation is over and “a determination about the filing of criminal charges has been made,” in order to respect the investigative process, Napier said.

“We share the public’s concern over what we viewed on the video,” Napier said. “We do not believe what we observed is in any way representative of the manner our deputies serve the community.”

Public Defender Joel Feinman, whose office represents the teen, whose first name is Immanuel, says the limbless teen in the video lives at the group home because he is in the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

Feinman said Friday he was horrified of the deputy’s actions. The Arizona Daily Star is not using the teen’s last name because he is underage.

“It was Immanuel’s decision as well, he decided he wanted the video to be released because he wanted the public to know what happened to him and he wants the public to understand what kids like him face often times at the hands of police officers,” Feinman said.

“He supposedly knocked over a trash can and was yelling and screaming at the employee of the group home,” Feinman said. “The deputy showed up, found Immanuel still upset, Immanuel was then yelling at the deputy. Immanuel tried to move past the deputy and at that point, that’s when the deputy tackled him.”

The Pima County Attorney’s Office dropped the misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge against Immanuel after the video was released Thursday, first to KOLD-TV, and subsequently posted on many local and national media websites.

Van Santen, an 11-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, was placed on leave while the incident is investigated.

The video apparently begins in the middle of the incident, with Immanuel screaming at Van Santen to let him go as he’s being pinned down on the kitchen floor by the deputy. The struggle leads to the teen being pushed against a refrigerator.

Van Santen later asks, “What’s your problem?”

Later in the video, after Van Santen stops holding Immanuel down and the teen sits up, Van Santen is seen bending over toward him and yelling, “I’m telling you to stop moving and you still moved, so shut the hell up.”

“I’ll raise my voice at you whenever I (expletive) want, do you understand?” the deputy says.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety said it is also looking into the incident.

“The safety of the children in our care is our top priority. We are currently working with law enforcement and the group home to review the incident,” Darren DaRonco, a spokesman for DCS, said Friday.

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Reporter

Stephanie is a Tucson native and graduated from the University of Arizona in 2014. She worked for newspapers in Rapid City, South Dakota; Manhattan, Kansas; and Lake Havasu City before moving back to Tucson.

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