More testimony in FPD excessive force trial

January 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Defense attorneys are turning up the heat on the officers who testified for the prosecution about what they saw the night four officers are accused of using unnecessary force and obstructing justice.

The allegations stem from the arrest of a man wanted for breaking into his girlfriend's apartment and assaulting her in 2005.

Sergeant Michael Manfredi and Officers Sean Plymale, Chris Coleman, and Paul Van Dalen are facing charges they went too far during the arrest.

Fresno Police Officer Thomas Hardin was a rookie at the time he showed up to a call at 2 a.m. in Southeast Fresno more than seven years ago. But, in his words, he left the scene in a state of disbelief. Hardin told the court, in his opinion, the force he saw fellow officers use against Rolando Celdon, wasn't needed to get him handcuffed and in custody.

Hardin became emotional when prosecutors questioned him about why he never came forward to report the wrongdoing.

When asked, "Why didn't you go directly to IA?"

He responded, "It's something that's hard to do."

Then he fought back tears and said, "I guess for that reason we are sitting here."

Earlier in the day, the man who brought the case to the attention of the internal affairs unit at the police department was questioned more. We are not showing you Martin Van Overbeeks face due to concerns about retaliation.

"There were a number of people, Van Overbeek being the lead person who did not come to the assistance of another officer who was by himself on the other side of the fence," Marshall Hodgkins said. "Now that changes the dynamics of everything."

Marshall Hodgkins was especially intense during his questioning of Officer Van Overbeek. While asking him about the incident, he said, "Are you telling me you froze?" The officer responded, "No." Then he asked, "Why didn't you go over the fence?" Van Overbeek said, "I don't know."

"He regretted doing it because he is now Monday morning quarterbacking it, just like the entire U.S. Attorney's Office is Monday morning quarterbacking our guys, ok," Hodgkins said. "This whole thing got out of hand."

Both Hardin and Van Overbeek said they were shocked and surprised at the harsh treatment Celedon received from the defendants. Each testified he was not resisting arrest when he was kicked and shot with a less lethal bean bag gun several times.

Hardin will continue being cross examined when court resumes Wednesday.


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