The Office of the Attorney General on Wednesday announced that they would not be pursuing criminal charges against GPD Officer Joey Aguon, saying their investigation confirmed that he struck Joebert Carlos in the gut with an open palm strike, which is considered an acceptable use of force that did not violate the law.
However, a review of the AG’s investigative documents and the man who shot the viral video raises questions about that conclusion.
The Attorney General’s investigation into the use of force by GPD officer Joey Aguon in the arrest of Joebert Carlos involved 3 AG investigators who interviewed a total of 12 individuals in relation to the incident. Seven were police officers and five were witnesses at the scene.
During a press conference earlier this week, Chief Prosecutor Basil O’Mallan stated that “the people there with the ability to see the actual action all confirmed it was open palm.”
“Well, it’s the police officers but we also have the lifeguard. The lifeguard in the video … you see the lifeguard was not in a position to see what was happening but everyone who was at the scene confirmed it was open palm,” O’Mallan said.
A review of the witness statements and AG investigators’ summary of GPD officers reports and incident reports revealed that 9 out of the 12 individuals indicated that they did not witness Carlos being struck.
Two other GPD officers interviewed were technique and procedure-related.
One officer, identified as Civilian Police Reservist Neil Aquino, reported that a discretionary measure — namely an “open palm strike” — was used to gain compliance. However, the same officer further states that he “didn’t actually see the type of strike but he was certain it was an open strike by the sound of the impact.”
The only person who reportedly saw the strike method utilized was identified in reports as Anthony Smith. PNC sat down with him today to get his side of the story. While he did not witness events leading up to Carlos being arrested or combative towards officers, he says he did witness the time period in question when Aguon delivered the strike to Carlos’ abdomen.
“The type of strike that I saw and I am being completely honest … it was a closed fist. If you look clearly at the video … I am only stating what I witnessed myself from my own two eyes,” Smith said.
He added: “An open palm strike and a strike with a closed fist could probably almost sound alike depending on the impact of the strike.”
Smith says the AG’s investigation just raises more questions and should be investigated further. But the AG has already decided that there is not enough probable cause to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Aguon used excessive force and as such, they would not be pursuing charges, despite not interviewing Carlos.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General who wrote the magistrate complaint charging Carlos told PNC that the viral video was not used in preparing the complaint. He says the complaint relied solely on GPD’s reports.
It should be noted that while the handwritten statements of the witnesses were made available by the AG, only summaries of the police reports were released.
OAG Spokewoman Carlina Charfauros stated: “The OAG is being as transparent as possible about our investigation into our Ypao investigation while still working within the confines set out by law as it relates to active criminal cases. There is an ongoing criminal case against Mr. Carlos. Therefore, we cannot provide any additional comment on the statements and materials we have already made available at this time.”