A Streamwood police officer accused of using excessive force against a motorist took the stand in his own defense Monday morning.
James Mandarino says he was following proper procedure and training during the entire traffic stop, including the use of his metal baton.
Mandarino, 41, is charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct following the March 28, 2010 traffic stop. The driver, 28-year-old Ronald Bell, was left with a concussion and multiple bruises and ultimately needed seven stitches to close a gash on his ear following the incident.
Mandarino says he ordered Bell and his passenger to remain in the vehicle, but they refused. He admits hitting Bell 15 times with the baton as he crouched on the ground, but he says Bell continued to disregard his direct commands to "get all the way on the ground."
"I felt it was necessary to strike him on the arm. I was trying to stop him from rising up. I was trying to control him at this point," Mandarino said of the incident that was captured on his squad car video camera.
Mandarino said the blow that hit Bell on the ear and required stitches was unintentional.
"I had been striking him in the forearm area. As I repositioned, I was aiming toward his shoulder area. But that was when it deflected off his shoulder and hit him in the ear," Mandarino said on the stand.
Mandarino says that Bell and his passenger were combative, swearing at him and not following any commands during the entire episode, but did not make any direct verbal threats.
Mandarino was fired around three months after the incident. Streamwood deputy police chief James Keegan has already taken the stand in the trial and testified that the repeated baton strikes were "inappropriate and unnecessary."
The final witness of the day was a police use of force expert who testified that police officers are generally justified in using their batons repeatedly if a person continues to disobey orders. He said Mandarino's actions were "reasonable and appropriate."
Mandarino was making $92,000 a year, but now makes $10 an hour as a security guard at a chemical plant. His family has filed for bankruptcy protection.
If convicted, he faces two to five years in prison.