Bodycam footage released Wednesday shows a deputy punching a young mother in the face as she held her three-week-old baby in Palmdale.
The incident, which was captured on bodycam, took place on July 13, 2022, shortly before midnight, according to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
A press conference with L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna was held Wednesday to address the two use-of-force incidents captured on video.
Palmdale Station deputies first spotted a vehicle driving without headlights and initiated a traffic stop.
Approaching the vehicle, authorities smelled alcohol coming from the car while also spotting five adults and three infants sitting inside.
The three babies were being held in the arms of the women instead of strapped into a car seat. The male driver was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a suspended license. The female passengers were arrested for felony child endangerment.
Bodycam footage of the arrest shows one mother, who is seen sitting on the ground while holding her baby, pleading with deputies to not take her child away.
The woman is heard saying she has a baby car seat at home and asks if she can go home to get the car seat.
A female deputy approaches and says, “We’re past that point. We didn’t realize you had that many kids. You guys each have a kid in the backseat without car seats.”
When the woman doesn’t cooperate, the deputy says, “So do you want me to grab the baby or are you going to hand the baby over nicely?”
The woman begins crying saying, “Please don’t take my baby, please.”
The deputy kneels down and says, “I don’t want to have to snatch her and have my partners grab your arms. That’s the last thing I want to do. But we’re going to take the baby one way or another and I don’t want to be rude about it.”
When the woman asks why she can’t just drive home, another deputy responds, “You already committed a crime. No one has car seats in the car for the children. That is a big safety concern.”
As the deputies decide to move in, one deputy holds the woman’s arms back while another deputy takes the baby from her arms. As the woman is crying, the bodycam moves to another woman who was standing by the vehicle while holding her three-week-old baby.
As deputies approach to take the baby, she begins yelling, saying, “Y’all are not taking my baby. You’re going to have to shoot me dead to take my baby from my arms. I’m not about to let you take my baby.”
As deputies moved in, the woman continues yelling while not letting go of the infant. While struggling to detain the woman, a male deputy is seen punching the woman twice in the face. Authorities confirmed the woman was still holding the baby at the time.
The woman yells in pain while saying, “You punched me, bro!” She continues yelling in pain while repeatedly saying, “You’re wrong!” as she’s being handcuffed.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Luna said he “found the punching of the woman in these circumstances completely unacceptable.” He continued saying, “I believe this is an isolated incident committed by an individual that will be held accountable.”
“While this incident occurred one year ago, before my term as Sheriff began, I took swift action upon learning of this incident several days ago,” Luna said. “I must note that state law precludes me from disclosing disciplinary actions taken in this matter.”
Although no further details on the deputy’s status were released, authorities have confirmed he was taken off field duty.
Luna said the case will be sent to the District Attorney for criminal consideration and the Los Angeles FBI Office is also looking into the matter.
“I have spoken with local elected officials, along with community and religious leaders, to discuss this incident,” he said. “I ask our community to support good policing but then it’s incumbent on us to call out bad policing when we see it. We are calling out, by these actions, by presenting today that we saw that the actions of one individual are problematic.”
Richard Pippin, President of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) released a statement saying:
“The video makes one thing obvious—police work is demanding and unpredictable. Any dispute over the control of infants on the roadway at 12:30 AM during an arrest of the driver of the car these children were riding in without proper restraints is a bad situation. Apparently, our deputies and the on-scene patrol supervisor had determined it wasn’t safe for the children to leave with the parents who were going to be taken into custody.
The physical safety of the infants was clearly our deputies’ highest priority as they were seen pleading with the women for a lengthy period. There will be a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking, and some will no doubt say that things could have been done differently. We will let the public decide that for themselves. A full investigation and due process for all involved—including those who work through the night to keep our communities and our children safe–will yield that information. In the meantime, we urge everyone to remain calm and allow the rule of law to work.”
L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger released a statement saying:
“The video footage is gut-wrenching. My heart aches for the children we see in this video, and for their mothers. Transparency and accountability starts at the top.”
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn responded saying:
“This violence in this video is appalling and there is no justification. This deputy does not belong in our Sheriff’s Department. I trust that the Sheriff will act quickly to discharge him and I agree with his decision to refer this case to the District Attorney for criminal prosecution. I appreciate Sheriff Luna for being transparent with the public and bringing this footage forward, but this video is nearly a year old and should have been released immediately by the prior Sheriff.”
The full bodycam video can be seen here.