News 4 obtains new video of Riverside sidewalk beating by police

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – When news that John Willet had been beaten while handcuffed and laying down on a sidewalk in Riverside first broke, the only perspective was from a cell phone video captured by a bystander.

Now we can show you a new and different vantage point captured by the city’s own eye in the sky. News 4 Investigates has obtained a new 30-minute video of Willet’s arrest back on April 19.

As Willet told News 4 Investigates in a recent interview: “[The police officer] just decided to whack me, I guess, again and kick me again. And he was just upset.”

RELATED | Watch News 4 Investigate’s exclusive interview with John Willet here

Video taken by a bystander shows former Buffalo Police officer John Cirulli slapping and kicking Willet while he was handcuffed and face down on the ground. The News 4 Investigative team recently obtained new footage of the beating from a City of Buffalo camera located at Philadelphia and Ontario Streets.

You can see Willet running from police and darting across the street before he is tackled and subdued. The city camera does not clearly show what was happening once Willet was handcuffed.

“The only thing I can think was just to keep telling them or asking them, or begging them to stop hitting me. My face obviously started hurting. I felt my face starting to swell up. I didn’t want to have a shut eye.”

The new city camera shows numerous police cars showing up at the scene. Police say Willet struggled with officers and had to be forcibly subdued and handcuffed.

In the interview, News 4 asked Willet why he was running. He admitted he ran “because of the fact that I did have some type of drugs on me.”

Police say Willet was found with heroin in his pants pocket and crack cocaine inside the vehicle he was driving.

Willet says he made a decision to stop running and surrender in a highly visible place.

“Let me stop running here on Ontario where somebody could possibly catch a video of me, you know, if they do try to beat me or anything versus running into a backyard where none of this would have got caught.”

Last month, John Cirulli resigned from the police department and pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations. Cirulli’s attorney, Rodney O. Personius, told reporters outside of the courtroom, “John allowed his anger to get the best of him based on the behavior of that suspect before and after he was taken into custody. It doesn’t make what he did right. It was wrong.”

Five other officers who were on the scene that night in Riverside remain on paid leave pending an Internal Affairs investigation. Sources familiar with the case say the citizen cell phone video and the city’s surveillance footage will assist in determining whether disciplinary charges are brought against any of the other officers.

News 4 aired an exclusive interview with the bystander who shot the video and filed a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law to obtain the city camera footage.

Former officer Cirulli is scheduled to be sentenced by a federal court judge in September. For his part, John Willet pleaded guilty to a reduced heroin possession charge, and is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

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