Crime & Justice

LAPD officer charged in beating of a man with a police baton

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An on-duty Los Angeles police officer is accused of using excessive force in connection with the beating of a man with a police baton two years ago, the L.A. District Attorney's Office said Wednesday.

Officer Jonathan Lai, 30, was arrested Wednesday. He pleaded not guilty to one count of assault by a police officer under the color of authority and assault with a deadly weapon in the beating of a man Lai had detained, according to prosecutors.

Lai turned himself in to LAPD officers at Central Division, where he was last assigned. Lai has been with the department for six years. 

Lai’s bail was set at $35,000. A spokesperson at the DA’s office said he was expected to be out the same day. He is due back in court on Aug. 21.

Prosecutors said Lai was on patrol on April 15, 2012, when he and his partner walked up to Jumel Castillo, who was standing alone outside a restaurant near Staples Center.

“Video surveillance from the restaurant shows Lai repeatedly using his police baton to strike the man, who was on his knees with his hands on his head,” according to the L.A. District Attorney’s Office.

LAPD’s internal affairs division launched an investigation into Lai in May 2012 after the video surveillance was discovered, according to police. He was removed him from field duties.

The investigation was turned over to the DA’s office for possible criminal charges a year later, in April 2013, said a spokesperson for the LAPD.

“The LAPD carefully reviews incidents involving the use of force, and we conduct thorough investigations to ensure that officers are held accountable for violating policies and going beyond the law,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in a written statement.  

Beck added that he “is always concerned when an officer is accused of violating the public's trust,” and said the department would work cooperatively with the DA’s office and the L.A. police inspector general to prevent future incidents.