Criminal charges could be laid against the police officers involved in a shocking arrest in Melbourne over the weekend that left a man in an induced coma.
Footage shot on Sunday afternoon in the northern suburb of Epping captured the moment 32-year-old Heathcote Junction man, Timothy Atkins, was arrested by five police officers.
The video was shared to social media and appeared to show an officer kick Mr Atkins while he was on the ground before another officer stomped on his head.
Another video, released by 7News, showed police hitting Mr Atkins with their car just moments before the dramatic arrest.
The father of three, who is now in an induced coma, was being treated at the Northern Hospital in Epping for a bipolar episode this weekend when he fled, prompting staff to call police as they feared for his safety.
Robinson and Gill lawyer Jeremy King, who is representing Mr Atkins, said there is a high chance the incident could lead to criminal charged being laid against some of the arresting officers.
“I think the last incident regarding the stomp on the head when he is already restrained on the ground could well lead to criminal charges,” he told Nine’s Today.
Mr King also suggested the officer who was filmed stomping on Mr Atkins’ head should be stood down from duty while an independent investigation occurs.
“I think it would be appropriate given the gravity of the situation. That’s probably as bad as I’ve seen in terms of police misconduct, the stomping on the head, it’s such a dangerous, violent act,” he said.
“Given the nature of that conduct, I think it would be appropriate for the police officer to be stood down while independently investigated.”
Mr King condemned the use of such violence, saying the police needed to be taking a harm minimisation approach when ideating with people who have mental health issues and may be in a vulnerable state.
“Obviously people with mental health issues like this, who are seeking treatment can often be in a vulnerable state, they can often be agitated and where possible police should be doing everything they can to try and de-escalate the situation and really not to be using violence or physical aggression in any way,” he said.
Mr King said Mr Atkins’ family was shocked and devastated by the incident, adding the focus was on letting his client recover before speaking about what action needs to be taken.
Mr Atkins’ brother Bryce described the move as a “dog act” telling the Herald Sun: “I’m just disgusted with what police think they can get away with”.
“It is in inhumane. To see him in a coma breaks my heart.”
His father, Glenn Atkins said he respects police but “this is not Australian.”
“They don’t need to do that to a person with a mental illness, who didn’t even fight back. My son was scared and confused. No one can tell me this was the right thing to do.”
The couple who filmed the arrest lashed out at the officers involved on social media, labelling the situation “violent” and “barbaric”.
“I don’t know what this man did, but nevertheless, this is NOT OKAY. This is absolutely disgusting behaviour from Victoria Police. Excuse my language but I couldn’t control myself,” the man said.
“He had no weapons (yes he was resisting arrest) but their violent attack and disgusting and barbaric treatment towards this guy is inexcusable,” the other man added.
In a statement issued on Sunday night, Victoria Police claimed Mr Atkins became aggressive during the arrest, leading to an officer being assaulted.
“Police were called to Cooper Street, Epping, to reports of a male behaving erratically about 4.10pm (Sunday),” Victoria Police said.
“Upon arrival the male allegedly became aggressive and damaged a police vehicle whilst attempting to avoid arrest.
“During the highly dynamic incident a police officer was assaulted and OC spray was deployed before the man was arrested and subsequently taken to hospital for assessment.
“The arrest has been referred to Professional Standards Command for oversight.”