INDIO- Police today defended the use of a Taser on an inebriated and naked man at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, which was captured on video and widely circulated on the Internet.
Johnathan Fredrick Felch, 23, of San Luis Obispo, was arrested around 7:15 p.m. Friday at the Empire Polo Fields on suspicion of being drunk in public and resisting arrest, said Indio Police Department spokesman Ben Guitron.
A physician examined Felch and cleared him to go to the Indio Jail, where he was cited and released, Guitron said.
“He ended up head-bumping one of the officers on the way to the jail,” Guitron said.
He said a police officer from nearby Banning, who was assigned to help keep concertgoers safe, used the Taser on the young man because of the size of the crowd.
“That was the best way to subdue him and take him,” Guitron said, adding that he did not initially detail the incident to the media because he did not think it was “significant.”
“He was touted as someone intoxicated and belligerent,” Guitron said. “Forty percent of our people (arrested) were intoxicated and belligerent.”
Overall, alcohol and drug-related arrests were down at this year’s festival, which drew the second-largest crowd in its 10-year history.
Although the Indio Police Department was the head agency during the festival, several local police departments — including Banning — helped patrol the area.
A Banning police official could not immediately reached for comment.
Several videos of the Taser arrest have popped up on sites such as YouTube, Boing Boing, Buzzfeed.com, an Australian news site, and The Huffington Post, sparking a worldwide online discussion about police tactics.
In the video, the Banning police officer and two Indio police officers can be seen asking Felch to put on what appear to be wizard robes, but he refuses.
“It doesn’t have to stop,” the man — who’s since been dubbed the “Naked Wizard” — tells officers.
“I’ll tell you what,” one of the cops replies. “You can have a great time, but you can have an even better time if you put your clothes on … Can I get them for you?”
The officer grabbed the robe and tossed it to Felch, who threw it down. At that point, they wrestled the naked man down to the ground, but he broke free and started to run away.
One of the officers deployed a Taser and the man dropped to the ground. When he continued to struggle with police, they Tasered him again several times before arresting him.
The crowd booed and jeered at the officers. One woman screamed, “Stop it! Stop it!” Another yelled, “The world is watching.”