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Deputy involved in encounter with teen with no limbs releases statement

Posted at 4:40 PM, Nov 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-22 20:36:23-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — For the first time, we're hearing from the deputy captured in a viral video wrestling a teen with no arms or legs.

Deputy Manuel Van Santen is on administrative leave while the Pima County Sheriff's Department investigates the September incident, which drew outrage online.

"I want to set the record straight," Van Santen says in a statement released by his attorney Friday.

RELATED: Deputy's report says he struggled to control teen with no arms or legs

In the statement, Van Santen says he'll comply with any inquiry into the incident and offers to testify in front of a grand jury after a criminal investigation. He also says the clip -- which was captured by another resident of the group home where the incident occurred -- doesn't show everything that happened."

"There are events before and after the video clip that were critical to the use of force and the overall context of the arrest," the statement reads. "Unfortunately, some interactions were not captured in the video clip or cannot be seen in the clip -- interactions that were critical to my training and use of force."

READ: Deputy Manuel Van Santen's full statement

That training was a sticking point for a local disability advocacy nonprofit. The Arizona Center for Disability Law released an open letter to Sheriff Mark Napier and the Pima County Board of Supervisors Thursday. They say the incident shows that deputies need mental health training, and demonstrates a lack of accountability.

READ: The ACDL's open letter to the Pima County Sheriff and Board of Supervisors

Deputy Van Santen also says he was disappointed that the Pima County Attorney's Office dropped charges against the 15-year-old and another resident of the group home. He says the home is "notorious for chaos and poor supervision of residents."

"REMEMBER: I was dispatched to the scene of a reported crime," his statement says. "I was there to secure and detain an individual who was identified as a criminal suspect, specifically, threats, disorderly conduct and criminal damage to the facility. I was there to secure individuals who might be a threat to themselves, the staff and other residents. This was all confirmed upon my arrival and BEFORE I entered the building."

RELATED: Charges dropped against teen with no limbs who was restained by deputy

Van Santen's statement also says he wants to return to duty with the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

The union representing some of the deputies in the department also released a statement on the incident, criticizing the group home for its care of residents and Sheriff Napier for his response.

"[T]he union is extremely disappointed that Sheriff Napier has issued a public statement condemning our fellow deputy BEFORE he has even had a chance to tell his side of this difficult encounter," the statement says. "We understand that this is an election year for Sheriff Napier and that he is eager to avoid another scandal. However, blaming one of our deputies is not leadership -- it is a cynical political calculation that diminishes his office."

READ: Statement from the Pima County Deputy Sheriff's Association