After releasing video circulating on social media that shows a brutal arrest conducted by two sheriff's deputies in San Bernardino, officials asked members of the public who witnessed the incident to come forward on Wednesday.
Authorities are concerned with the actions of one of the deputies in particular who is seen in the cellphone video repeatedly kicking the suspect in the head after the man was handcuffed and his body limp.
The arrest occurred last Friday, Jan. 26, around 1 a.m. near the intersection of Highland Avenue and Cedar Street, and investigators are hoping to interview motorists who were in the area at that time, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.
The one-minute clip released Wednesday opens as one deputy has 21-year-old Gerardo Bernabe Vasquez pinned to the ground, with Vasquez's legs squirming.
Moments later, a second deputy arrives on scene. As the second deputy begins to arrange Vasquez's hands to cuff them, the first deputy punches Vasquez twice in the head.
After Vasquez is handcuffed, the deputies each pick up one of his arms as they attempt to load him into a patrol vehicle. But Vasquez's body has gone limp, his torso and legs flopping toward the ground as his arms are raised behind his back.
The deputies drop him, and it is then that the first deputy begins to kick his face. It appears he strikes him three times, stepping on his head in the final blow.
Vasquez was eventually booked on suspicion of resisting or obstruction an officer, was cited and later released, the Sheriff's Department said. It was unclear why or how the two parties initiated contact.
The deputy seen striking Vasquez was placed on paid administrative leave, pending the results of the probe. Authorities said they would not identify the deputy while the investigation is ongoing.
Sheriff's officials said they were already investigating the incident when the video gained attention on social media, and Sheriff John McMahon said he found the "level of force" seen in the video concerning.
“I expect our employees always to remain professional when contacting the public, who we serve," McMahon said in a statement. "I can assure you that we take these matters very seriously and we will conduct a thorough and complete investigation.”