Video of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy lunging into a vehicle and punching the driver during a traffic stop led to a response from Sheriff Alex Villanueva Wednesday.
“Not only will this use of force be thoroughly investigated, but we will also examine the tactics, policies & procedures,” Villanueva said in a statement. “This incident desperately illustrates the need for the Board of Supervisors to fully fund LASD body-worn cameras.”
The driver seen in the video was identified by his brother, Omar Medina, as Jesus Medina. Omar shot the seven-minute clip and posted it to Instagram on Tuesday.
“Since the sheriff spoke about it earlier, the DA has filed charges against the suspect in that case,” L.A. County Sheriff’s Captain Kerry Carter said later during a Facebook Live. “So now I really have to be careful and limited on what I actually say about it.”
Carter, who is leading the use-of-force investigation, said the deputy seen punching the driver has “been reassigned” and is “undergoing training.” He said a female deputy was kicked by a suspect over the course of the incident, leaving her with a broken arm.
The captain also said “the suspects” have been charged with possession of methamphetamine for sales, resisting arrest and assault; he did not specify who is facing which charges.
The video starts off with someone in the car threatening to call 911 on a deputy standing next to the driver’s side door. Carter said three people were inside the car when it was stopped around noon on Sunday.
The Instagram post states the men inside the car were trying to buy a used car bumper outside a 7-Eleven in Lynwood. The deputy stopped them for having outdated registration and tinted windows, according to the post.
As the video starts, the Medina brothers accuse the deputy of trying to open the driver’s door. Fifteen seconds into the clip, the deputy clutches his hand over Jesus’ hand, which is seen on the door handle.
Then Jesus appears to call authorities while Omar tells the deputy: “Whether you believe it or not, the DMVs are closed. We can’t do anything about nothing,” referring to the expired registration.
Once on the phone, Jesus asks for a “supervisor” to come to the traffic stop at Duncan and Walnut avenues.
“We have a officer who pulled me over — he stuck his hand inside my door,” he says. “He tried to move my hand to unlock my door. I don’t know if he’s just posing … has a costume on or what.”
People inside the car continue to make comments about the officer reaching inside the vehicle and trying to open the door. “Did you ask me to step out the car?” Jesus asks the deputy at one point.
“I was going to,” the deputy replies.
“You still haven’t asked my for my license, registration, insurance, nothing,” Jesus says moments later. The deputy answers: “You’re over here yapping. So I’m just letting you yap.”
But the situation later escalates when Jesus tries to close his window. “I’m going to put the windows up until your backup comes,” he says to the deputy.
“I’m going to break your window if you do that,” the deputy tells him.
When Jesus continues trying to put his hand back on the door handle, the deputy grabs at his hands and tries to stop him from rolling up the window. He eventually pins down Jesus’ hand and appears to ask for the back windows to be rolled down. But the people inside the car refuse and accuse him of assault, telling him he’s being recorded.
“I don’t care, dude,” the deputy answers.
Soon after, a woman is heard off-camera saying “relax, relax” while the driver pulls away from the deputy, cursing at him as the deputy continues trying to grab his hand.
The deputy then opens the door and grabs Jesus’ arm with both hands. Seconds later, four minutes and 36 seconds into the clip, the deputy starts punching the driver’s head with his right fist. Several people can be heard screaming and cursing.
At one point, the deputy, while still hitting the driver, screams out: “Give me your f—ing hands!”
Another female deputy is then seen helping the other officer pull Jesus out of the vehicle. They appear out of view for a few seconds until Jesus is seen on the ground, with the deputy on top and trying to arrest him. The female deputy is later seen holding his head down on the pavement while the other deputy tries placing him in handcuffs.
“The one concern I have is for the female deputy, who was kicked in the stomach by one of the suspects,” Villanueva later told reporters. He has said he only saw an edited version of the video.
During the last 30 seconds of the clip, another sheriff’s patrol vehicle drives up and a deputy gets out. He goes toward the officers arresting Jesus before walking toward Omar, who was still recording the video.
“Put your phone down, man. Hey, put your phone down,” the deputy tells him.
Omar Medina told KTLA the Sheriff’s Department needs reform, and the use of force was excessive.
“We need help. We’re citizens, too, man. We have rights. We don’t want it to get back to 1992,” Medina said, alluding to riots over the beating of Rodney King.
Carter said the deputies were not wearing body cameras. He said the L.A. County Board of Supervisors recently slashed funding for these cameras at the department.