MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A former Memphis Police officer pleaded guilty in federal court to a felony count of deprivation of rights under color of law for assaulting a suspect during an arrest in 2021.
Armando Bustamante was on duty in January 2021 when he struck a man in the head with his service weapon and hands without legal justification, causing injury, the United States Department of Justice said in a news release.
“This former Memphis police officer abused his authority by violently assaulting a man without basis,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Officers who willfully use excessive force without basis are not above the law and will be held accountable. Whether in Memphis or any corner of the country, the Justice Department stands ready to vigorously prosecute those law enforcement officers who defy the Constitution and violate people’s civil rights.”
Bustamante faces a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release. A sentencing date has been set for June 15.
“The United States cares deeply about violations of civil rights, here in Memphis and throughout America,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin Ritz for the Western District of Tennessee. “The overwhelming majority of police officers do their jobs honorably and lawfully. As this case shows, we will not hesitate to hold those who violate civil rights laws to account.”
The Memphis Police Department has been under scrutiny this year for alleged abuses by officers, especially since the Jan. 10 death of Tyre Nichols. Six officers have been fired and five face criminal charges so far in that case.