The California Highway Patrol claims the officer subdued the woman for her own protection, but the scene passing motorists captured on video reveals instead what witnesses are calling “brutal” and “animalistic” excessive force.
David Diaz, a music producer, was on the onramp from La Brea Avenue to the Interstate-10 Freeway in Los Angeles earlier this week, when he captured on video a woman meandering toward the highway.
A CHP officer then approached the woman, wrestled her to the ground and began pummeling her, punching her repeatedly in the head while Diaz and his friends looked on in horror.
The video captures the officer winding up and punching the woman as many as 11 times, before another man – later revealed to be an off-duty police officer in plain clothes – arrived to help subdue and handcuff her.
“There was no weapons; it’s obviously excess force at this point,” Diaz told KABC-TV, Los Angeles. “You can use strength without punching. The most animalistic, most brutal [way] to subdue someone is to pound their face into the concrete with really big blows to the head.”
“Was she intoxicated? Was she mentally ill? Possibly,” Diaz told KNBC-TV, Los Angeles. “[But] these are like, grown men, on top of you punching you to a point where she could’ve died out there.”
“She was screaming,” witness Daina Tate told KNBC. “Two men were on her. They had her arms up. She couldn’t defend herself. She looked totally helpless and terrified.
“It was shocking, and you can’t really call the cops on the cops.”
KABC reports the CHP released a written statement explaining the officer ordered the woman to stop, fearing she would be hurt by wandering into traffic, but she ignored him.
“A physical altercation ensued as the pedestrian continued to resist arrest,” the statement reportedly reads, “at which point a plain clothes, off duty officer assisted in applying the handcuffs.”
The CHP further reports the woman refused to give her name, was booked as “Jane Doe” and taken to a local hospital for mental and physical evaluations.
“The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is aware of the video and we are looking into the incident,” an official statement explained. “As a matter of policy, every time there is a use of force by our officers, there is a review conducted to determine whether the use of force was appropriate.”
In a follow-up press conference, CHP Assistant Chief Chris O’Quinn offered little by way of additional details, but hinted there’s more to the story.
“The tape only shows a small part of what transpired; there were events that led up to this,” O’Quinn said. “Until all that’s collected and put into perspective we aren’t going to be able to make a determination.”
O’Quinn explained the officer was responding to a report of a person on the freeway when the woman walked down an on-ramp then back onto the freeway and across lanes of traffic, “endangering herself and the motoring public.”
“We don’t know if there was a vehicle anywhere in the area, as far as we know she was wandering,” he said. “What caused the officer to respond in the way he has has not been thoroughly evaluated.”
O’Quinn did, however, assure reporters that despite what the video would suggest, the woman was uninjured in the incident.
The Associated Press reports the officer in the video is on administrative leave while CHP investigates.