Streamwood officer charged in videotaped beating

April 16, 2010 3:32:47 AM PDT
A northwest suburban police officer accused in the alleged unprovoked beating of a motorist was charged Thursday.

The alleged beating happened more than two weeks ago near the intersection of Schaumburg Rd. and East Ave. in northwest suburban Streamwood.

Officer James Mandarino pulled over a car on March 28th at 3:45 a.m. as part of a routine traffic stop. Prosecutors say there was no chase and no threatening conduct on the part of the motorist or his passenger.

Mandarino is accused of tazing the passenger twice, then using his collapsable metal police baton to hit the driver, 28-year-old Ronald Bell, across his head, neck and shoulders 15 times.

The driver suffered a concussion and cuts that required seven stitches. The man had already obeyed Mandarino's orders to put his hands on his head and kneel on the ground.

"This conduct that's displayed on this video by this officer is not only disturbing - it's outrageous, and it's unacceptable," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. "This officer's senseless act of rage against an unarmed citizen constitutes an offensive violation of [public] trust."

Mandarino was charged Thursday with felony aggravated battery and official misconduct. He was ordered held on $50,000 bail.

Mandarino reportedly pulled the car over after noticing its tires squealing. He later claimed in a police report that the two men resisted arrest and that the driver was drunk.

The state's attorney has now dropped those charges thanks to the recording made from the squad car's dashboard camera.

"Even though there is no audio on this tape, it really gave us a clear, clear view of what occurred in this particular case," said Alvarez. "It was extremely helpful."

Mandarino said Thursday his attorney advised him not to make any statements.

"He's a decorated officer," said Mandarino's attorney Ed Wanderling. "He was officer of the year three to four years ago."

The 15-year veteran of the Streamwod Police Department was stripped of his gun and suspended from the force without pay pending a hearing.

The tape surfaced because Streamwood police officials were looking for proof of the drunk driving and belligerence that the officer reported, not because of a complaint by the driver.

When they saw the contents of the video, the department officials contacted prosecutors within a day.

Streamwood police would not say if Mandarino had any previous complaints.

The village of Streamwood said officials acted quickly after viewing the videotape and brought in the state police to investigate. "We believe that as difficult as it is, our actions in this incident reaffirm our complete commitment to the community," said a written statement. Village officials declined to make any further comment because of the possibility of a civil lawsuit.

Mandarino's attorney originally planned a news conference for Friday morning but then abruptly cancelled it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.)