ROLLING MEADOWS (CBS) – He thought he was going to die. That’s what a former Streamwood police officer said on the stand Monday at his bench trial on charges that he used excessive force on a local motorist last year.
James Mandarino is charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct following a traffic stop that was captured on his dashboard camera.
In the video, Mandarino is seen striking a man some 15 times with a metal baton.
But on the stand for more than four hours, Mandarino defended his actions, CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports.
The ex-officer said he was in the middle of a high-risk traffic stop in which two suspects continued to ignore his dozens of orders to stay in their car after pulling into a driveway.
Mandarino said the passenger, who smelled of alcohol, kept shouting expletives at him, saying, “I don’t have to listen to you” and began to walk into the house.
Mandarino, alone and waiting for backup, testified, “I was in fear at any moment he could come out and may have a weapon with him.”
“The red flags are going off … I felt anxiety. At any moment I could be killed or seriously injured,” the five-year SWAT team veteran said.
The driver and baton victim, Ronald Bell, was treated for injuries in the arrest. It resulted in Mandarino’s dismissal from the force.
Key to the defense is the argument Bell refused repeated orders to lay prone, instead remaining in a kneeling position and resisting arrest.
“I believed it was just a matter of time before he was going to fight me,” Mandarino said.
Mandarino was accompanied in court by his wife and mother and friends, including several police officers there for support. Closing arguments are expected Tuesday.
Mandarino faces two to five years in prison if found guilty.