Guam Police Department Officer Joey Aguon has been exonerated by the Attorney General who says that the force that Aguon used on a handcuffed individual was not excessive, despite not having talked to the individual who was struck.
The Attorney General’s Office had the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the force used in the viral video depicting officer Aguon striking Joebert Carlos was excessive force.
But as egregious as the video appears AG Chief Prosecutor Basil O’Mallan says there was no crime committed.
“We felt that with all the people at the scene — the lifeguard the tourists who were there, the other police officers and even the person who actually took the video — it was determined that the officer’s actions were justified. And for that reason, we believe there was no probable cause to charge the officer with any crime,” O’Mallan said.
According to AG Leevin Camacho, the independent investigation involved the questioning of police officers and others present at the time of the incident.
But no efforts were made to hear Carlos’ side of the story. PNC questioned if it was protocol not to question a victim in a case such as this.
“Victim input is essential and we always practice this but the filing of charges is something that needs to be done under our own ethical standards. So ethically we cannot file charges that we do not believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial,” the AG said.
He added: “We did our investigation independently…just so you know if we had proceeded to trial, that is the burden of proof that we would have. We would’ve had to prove to 12 people or six people that the use of force that was used in this case was not justified beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Even if Carlos steps forward and states that he was struck with a closed fist, the AG says they are not bound to press charges.
So how did the AG come to the determination that the strike used was not excessive?
O’Mallan says that they reviewed the video many times and determined that Carlos was resisting arrest, pointing out that in the video he is seen kicking the police unit’s passenger door prior to Aguon utilizing what has been determined as an open palm strike, which is an acceptable method of force to gain compliance.
“You can’t see it in the video because there is an officer, a car door, and then another officer, and then officer Aguon. You cannot see, you see the arm coming down. But the people right there with the ability to see the action all confirmed it was open palm,” O’Mallan said.
The AG stands firm that their office has not shied away from charging police officers with a crime if there is probable cause to do so.
This, however, is not the only investigation into the incident. GPD is also conducting an internal affairs investigation and has stated that the FBI is also looking into the case.