An 18-year-old student who was filmed being pulled off a Metro train by an LAPD sergeant, apparently after he confronted the young woman for having her foot on a seat, spoke out publicly on Monday after filing a claim over the encounter.
The incident involving North Hollywood teen Bethany Renee Nava, which prompted the Los Angeles Police Department to initiate a use-of-force investigation, took place on the afternoon of Jan. 22 and was captured in a 10 1/2-minute video that has been viewed more than 13 million times.
According to LAPD, Nava violated the Metro customer code of conduct by placing her foot on her seat, and she was removed from the train for allegedly being loud and boisterous.
The claim, which disputed the violation, alleges that Nava "was wrongfully restrained, pulled and battered" by police, and that the use of force "was totally unjustified," according to the complaint.
Nava was riding the train from school to the North Hollywood station, where she was set to meet her mother and go to the DMV to get an ID since she had just turned 18.
She was in her seat, listening to music with her headphones in and texting her mother, when she was approached by an LAPD sergeant, the high school senior recounted during a Monday morning news conference.
The sergeant – identified in the filing only by last his name, Hutchings – snapped his fingers in her face to get her attention because of her headphones, prompting her to stop the music and turn toward him, according to Nava.
Her foot was on her own seat, and he told her to put it down. She complied with the sergeant's order and he walked away, Nava said.
She then began playing her music again and put her foot up again – this time on her right thigh, Nava said as she demonstrated in front of reporters on Monday.
"I guess it looked like it was still on the seat, but it wasn't," she said.
Soon after, the sergeant returned.
“He told me, ‘You’re going to put your foot down or I’m going to arrest you,’” Nava recalled.
She said she put her foot down on the floor again, then asked him why he was arresting her and what law was she breaking.
"He says, ‘There doesn’t need to be a law, you’re disobeying me,'” Nava said.
She told him that she had paid to be on the train and didn’t understand why he was taking her off. The teen asked for an explanation, but said she never got one.
“Instead of explaining, he grabbed me by my right elbow and started to pull me off the train. I told him, ‘You can’t touch me like that.’ He said, ‘I can touch you all I want.’ Then he started to pull me really hard out of the train,’” Nava recalled.
She alleged that he forcibly removed her from the train, putting his weight against her while pressing her against a wall and putting her arms behind her back. It was at that point that other riders got involved and began arguing with the sergeant, she said.
The video showed multiple witnesses objecting to his treatment of the teen, among them Brock Bryan, who recorded the incident on his cellphone.
Nava can be seen arguing with the sergeant and cursing while she questions him about being pulled off the train, according to the footage.
“I reacted how I did out of fear and confusion,” Nava said, trying to hold back tears. “I’ve never been in trouble with the law before.”
She said she didn't resist when police handcuffed her.
"I just subdued. I had given up because there was no point in fighting," Nava said.
Nava was arrested on suspicion of being loud and boisterous, an LAPD spokesman told KTLA the day after the video was posted. The arrest took place about 3 p.m. at the Westlake/MacArthur Park station.
Lopez confirmed a second woman, 22-year-old Selena Lechuga, was also arrested on suspicion of battery. The video showed her apparently spitting at one officer.
Nava's attorney, Michael Carillo, said his client possibly faces a fine or community service over the citation.
The teen's mother, who sat beside her daughter at the news conference, told KTLA last week that Nava was taken to a hospital with a sprained wrist and some contusions after the incident.
The claim, the initial step toward a possible lawsuit, alleges that Nava suffered injuries to her wrist, arm and hip as a result of the removal. On Monday morning, she had a brace on her right wrist and a portion of the arm was bandaged up.
The filing also alleges false arrest, false imprisonment, battery, negligence, emotional distress and a civil rights violation. Nava is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
In addition to the city of Los Angeles and Hutchings, the claim also names LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and various unknown LAPD personnel and civilian employees.
“I’m an American citizen and I feel that my rights were violated,” Nava said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else. That nobody else targets young girls just trying to go home from school.”
She said she felt she was targeted because other people were violating posted rules, including eating and drinking on the train, and putting items on another seat.
“I’ve always looked to the police as my protectors, as somebody who could keep me safe," Nava said. "Now I can say I’m deeply afraid of them, I’m afraid to get on the Metro.”
Amid the investigation, Metro's CEO released a statement, saying he was "disappointed" by the way the incident escalated, but he urged people not to rush to judgment until all the facts of the case are gathered:
As Metro continues to work with our partners at the Los Angeles Police Department on the investigation of a young woman being forcibly removed from a Metro subway train yesterday, I want to be clear about my position: We want our Customer Code of Conduct rules enforced, but I’m disappointed at the way the situation escalated.
As a 24-year retired U.S. Army veteran, I understand and respect our police officers and their day-to-day duty in working to keep our system safe and secure. They encounter hundreds of conduct issues each day, and some of them are faced with very difficult situations. But my hope is that we work to de-escalate situations as much as possible.
The investigation is underway to gather all the facts, and until we have the complete story, we must not rush to judgment. Meanwhile, we remain committed to enhancing safety and the overall rider experience for all of our customers, and look to our patrons to be our partners in that.
Warning: The video embedded below contains graphic language.