Brock Emmett, 23, was arrested and initially charged with three felonies for the incident that took place on February 10 in Whittier, a suburb southwest of Los Angeles. The felonies were later reduced to two misdemeanors and a judge reduced his bail from $100,000 to nothing, but Emmett lost his job as a teacher because of the incident.
Last month, a video provided to the LA Times appeared to disprove the official version of events from authorities. On Thursday, Emmett confirmed to the LA Times all charges have been dropped, but that he will not be fully satisfied until a court declares him factually innocent and he gets his old job back.
“I am feeling relieved that the district attorney made the right choice and chose justice,” Emmett told the LA Times. “But I will feel more relieved when I get my job back.”
A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department said the case was dropped for “insufficient evidence” but provided no further information on the decision.
“We have good news: Mr. Brock has confirmed that all charges have been dropped, and the case against him has been dismissed,” The LGBT Center of Los Angeles announced in a post to Facebook over the weekend. “We stand with Emmett Brock and will continue to support him while following the ongoing investigation into the Sheriff’s Department.”
The arresting officer, Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Benza, claimed he pulled over Emmett because of an illegal air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror and that he only punched Emmett repeatedly and bashed his head into the pavement because Emmett bit him and because he feared for his own safety. However, a medical expert determined the only injury of note suffered by Benza during the assault was a fractured hand described as a “punching injury” by Emmett’s attorney.
Emmett told the LA Times he witnessed a deputy by the side of the road engaged in a heated discussion with a woman ashe was driving home from work on February 10. Still upset about a fellow coworker who had harassed him because of his sexual identity earlier that day, Emmet admitted he flipped his middle finger at the deputy as he drove past. He later said he doubted the officer would see it, but within moments was being followed by a sheriff’s cruiser.
Emmett called 911 to confirm the cruiser was following him, but the dispatcher questioned the reason for his call as Emmett had not been stopped. When Emmett pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store, the sheriff followed him and used his vehicle to block him into the parking space. Surveillance video from the convenience store synched with the deputy’s own recordings showed Emmett calmly asking what is happening when the deputy confronted him and then attacked.
“You’re going to kill me,” Emmett can be heard screaming in the video as Benza body slams him into the ground and pounds his head into the asphalt. “You’re going to f*ck*ng kill me. Help! Help! Help!”
“He just kept saying, ‘Stop resisting, stop resisting,’” Emmett told the LA Times. “I didn’t understand why he was shouting that because I wasn’t resisting.”
In his 11-page report of the arrest – which made no mention of Emmett’s use of the middle finger – Benza wrote he was concerned about “safety issues” and that didn’t know if Emmett had any “contraband items” hidden in his car during the confrontation.
He claimed he only grew violent when Emmett “cocked his right hand back into a fist, indicative of someone about to throw a punch.” He also claimed Emmett “continuously tried to bite” him throughout the arrest, but that he was able to subdue after punching Emmett in quick succession.
“My punches had their intended effect,” Benza concluded.
An internal use-of-force review cleared Benza of wrongdoing, the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement, but other aspects of Brock’s allegations are still under investigation.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department takes all use of force incidents seriously,” the department wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, we cannot comment any further at this time due to the pending litigation in this matter.”
Emmett also claims he underwent a humiliating genital exam to prove he was a trans man, but was still housed with female prisoners.