WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Police Department waited a week to issue a statement about a 911 response that included officers attempting to break down doors, tasing a man through a broken window pane, and arresting that man along with a resident who was filming the police response.
Now, the department is refusing to answer questions aimed at filling in key missing details of the incident, including what “reasonable suspicion” was used by the officer to open the property’s front gate — a move that caused the two men to become violent, according to the WPD.
It’s worth noting that WPD is not issuing a ‘no comment’ in response to questions; instead, the department has refused to acknowledge any communication related to the issue, although it has provided timely responses to questions about several other incidents.
In the department’s late-Monday-afternoon release, the WPD claimed the man who was tased, Bryan Rivera-Cota, showed clear signs of impairment, while both he and another man, Jimmy Valimont, were uncooperative and provided conflicting answers to the officers’ questions during the nearly five-minute period before Valimont began filming.
After the officers entered the front gate in the early morning hours of August 17, according to the WPD, the female officer was “hit in the head and had her arm pinned in a doorway. Her arm can be seen bleeding in the video. The male officer had his leg shut in the front gate and was pushed off the porch. The glass of the front door was broken during the struggle.”
WPD did not clarify what reasonable suspicion the officers cited to open the metal gates and walk on to the property. Nor did the department clarify if these events happened prior to the video or during a moment during the video where the camera is dropped — or some of both.
The sound of glass breaking can be heard at the 20-second mark of Valimont’s video, one that began with the officers attempting to break into the door on the side of the wrap-around porch facing Fifth Street. The female officer then walked by the filmer, yelling, “Move!” before his camera dropped to the patio floor, facing down. Seconds later the noise of the glass breaking is followed by the apparent screams of a man in pain, presumably those of Rivera-Cota, who had just been tased.
When Valimont picked up the camera to resume filming, the male officer is seen aiming a deployed taser gun inside the home, its chord running through the broken window on the door facing Wright Street. The period of time between the female officer knocking Valimont’s camera from his hand and the male officer holding the taser gun is roughly 16 seconds.
The WPD did not answer if the struggle involving both officers, resulting in the glass breaking, had occurred during this 16-second interval — a time when they moved from one end of the porch to the other, the glass is broken, and the male officer fired the taser gun.
Throughout the video, the two men repeatedly asked what the officers were doing, receiving no audible response.
According to the department, the officers attempted to arrest Rivera-Cota after he injured them, deploying his taser gun through the front door.
“Rivera-Cota then ran upstairs and jumped from a second-story window to the ground before taking off in a sprint. He was pursued and taken into custody, and remained combative throughout his arrest,” according to the WPD.
Rivera-Cota was charged with one count of resisting arrest and one count of assaulting a law enforcement officer and inflicting serious injury, the latter of which carried the most weight in his $70,000 bond. WPD noted that, while at the New Hanover County Jail, Rivera-Cota was charged with False Alarm/Molesting Fire System for setting a sprinkler off during a “mental episode.”
But the WPD also did not answer what specific head injury the female officer incurred from the incident. It did say her arm had been pinned in a doorway, and that her “arm can be seen bleeding in the video.” But it appears that her arm was not bleeding prior to the sound of broken glass, which may explain how the glass was broken — either by a struggle that resulted in her arm being stuck in the doorway, as the department said, or her breaking the glass herself.
The department also did not answer how long after the officers entered the property was the female officer hit in the head and had her arm pinned in a doorway, which would help align the department’s story with the video’s timeline of events.
Questions for residents
There are also unanswered questions from the residents. When Valimont originally posted the video, he posted, “When you call about hookers in the neighborhood …” above the video. Valimont also tells the officers that he called 911 because there had been prostitutes in his neighborhood.
However, the 911 call revealed no mention of prostitutes, but instead of a man allegedly lurking on their property with a knife and calling one of the residents a racial slur.
“At one point Valimont told officers he may have called 911, but then refused to provide further information,” according to the WPD. “They continued to say there were ‘prostitutes’ at ‘Fourth and Wright’ instead of providing information regarding the subject armed with a knife.” (The house is located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Wright Street.)
Valimont has not responded to multiple Facebook messages sent after the incident occurred. One man listed on the dispatcher’s report, Christopher Mason, was reached by phone last week but declined to provide clarifying details of the incident, explaining that his roommates had been advised by attorneys to avoid publicly discussing the case. An attempt to talk to Valimont and Rivera-Cota at the home was also unsuccessful.
Valimont was arrested after he approached a group of officers who appeared to have arrested Rivera-Cota three homes south on Fifth Street. The video is cut off shortly after a female officer yelled, “Put your hands behind your back now!”
According to the WPD, Valimont was arrested and also charged with resisting officers. He was given a $250 unsecured bond and was released hours later.
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