Authorities on Monday released new information about the arrest of a street vendor last month in Perris after video of the woman being taken into custody was circulated on social media, sparking outrage.
Juanita Mendez-Medrano, 52, was selling flowers and Hawaiian-style leis on June 6 near Perris Boulevard and Nuevo Road. At the time, motorcycle officers were patrolling the area due to a graduation ceremony for nearby Perris High School, according to a Riverside County Sheriff's Department news release.
Mendez-Medrano, a resident of Fontana, was among a group of 15 vendors who were warned and ticketed by Perris police officer for selling items without the required permits, according to the Sheriff's Department, which also said vendors were walking into traffic to sell their products.
The woman did not cooperate with police when they attempted to cite her, authorities said.
"Unlike the other vendors, Ms. Mendez-Medrano refused to cooperate as necessary to allow our officer to issue her a citation. She refused to provide her name, and attempted to walk away," the release stated. "Our officer repeatedly told Ms. Mendez-Medrano why she was being detained, and that she could not go without being issued a citation."
Mendez-Medrano allegedly gave several false names, tried to leave and pushed the officer away, according to sheriff's officials.
"Our officer told Ms. Mendez-Medrano she was not free to leave and was under arrest, and held her arm to prevent her from fleeing. When Ms. Mendez-Medrano resisted our officer’s efforts to gain her cooperation, a very brief physical struggle ensued before she was taken into custody," the release said.
Footage of the struggle between Mendez-Medrano and the officer who arrested her was posted to Twitter the day after the incident.
(The video contains graphic content and viewer discretion is advised -- it can be seen here.)
The video shows Mendez-Medrano holding a bouquet of flowers as she pulls away from the officer arresting her, who appears to grab her arms and then her hair at one point. The officer finally wrestles her to the ground, appearing to put his hand over her mouth in the final moments before he finally handcuffs her as she is lying on the ground.
During the takedown, Mendez-Medrano can be heard defending herself and pleading with the officer in Spanish.
"Why go after people trying to make a decent living?" she says while being arrested. "Why not go after gang-bangers?"
The video has prompted anger online, with some taking to the the department’s Facebook page to express their outrage.
“I'm saddened by the brutality for the poor woman selling flowers,” Felix Cortes wrote. "She should be compensated for her extremely traumatic treatment, and your officer should be dismissed and charged himself for his actions."
Mendez-Medrano's arrest came as officers were trying to control traffic and clear the area as vendors were walking into the street and creating "obvious traffic safety concerns," the release said.
But a witness who was there that day said that vendors were not creating unsafe conditions by walking into traffic.
"A safety hazard -- maybe if they were, like, in the middle of the street," Jason Hernandez told KTLA on Monday.
Hernandez said the vendors were off in a corner near the high school and in a parking lot for the school -- not in the middle of the street.
"They're overstepping their boundaries," Hernandez said. "They should just calm the situation down, not tackle a lady who, you know, is just trying to provide for her family."
In the news release, the Sheriff's Department also issued a response about the video.
"As with most police events, the short, publicly produced video does not have the full context or content of the incident seen on the video," the release stated.