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Deputy pepper-sprayed, beat disabled man

Dec. 21, 2012 at 9:40 AM

SAN DIEGO, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- A deputy on night patrol didn't know a man he pepper-sprayed and hit with a baton has Down syndrome, a San Diego County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman said

The deputy made a mistake, Jan Caldwell told XETV-TV, San Diego.

Deputies were searching for a possible domestic violence suspect Tuesday when they came across Antonio Martinez, 21, walking from his home to the bakery his family owns. Martinez covered his head with a sweatshirt hood and, thinking he was trying to conceal his identity, deputies asked him to stop, Sheriff's Capt. Joe Rodi said.

When he didn't stop, a deputy, whose name was not reported, used pepper spray on the mentally disabled man and struck him with a baton to force him to the ground before handcuffing him, CNN reported.

Witness Melissa Mejia said passersby alerted the deputy to Martinez's disability several times before and during the incident, XETV reported.

"It was a dark night. There was a non-compliant person that was hiding his face and hiding his hands. It's clear in the light of day that this man had a disability but the deputy at the time didn't know that," Caldwell said.

Jessica Martinez, the victim's sister, said her father has considered suing the sheriff's department for her brother's treatment, which landed him in the hospital with cuts and bruises, CNN reported.

"But really, all we want is for the sheriff's deputy who did this to my brother to get fired," she said. "That's all we want. We want justice."

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