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Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating deputies’ use of force captured on body camera footage


By Laura Studley, CNN

(CNN) — Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies have been taken off field duty as their department investigates force they used when a couple was being detained at a Southern California grocery store last month, the county sheriff’s department said.

The encounter unfolded on June 24 as deputies responded to a report of a robbery in the city of Lancaster and tried to detain a couple matching the description of suspects given by store security in calls to 911, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said without releasing details about the descriptions.

“As deputies attempted to detain the individuals described by store security personnel, the encounter escalated into a use of force incident that was captured by a community member with a cell phone camera,” the sheriff’s department said in a news release. “The video is disturbing.”

County Sheriff Robert Luna echoed those sentiments at a news conference Wednesday, saying he is “also committed to full transparency” and decided to release the store video publicly.

“I have seen the video – both the video collected by the community member and our body-worn camera footage that we put out Monday night. And it’s disturbing. There’s no ifs and buts about it,” Luna said.

On Wednesday night, protesters gathered at the WinCo grocery store to protest the use of force witnessed.

“I just couldn’t believe my eyes, I was just so upset,” Lisa Garrett, who recorded cell phone video footage of the detention, said at the protest. “You weren’t there. I was there. It was really bad.”

Footage shows woman thrown to ground

The agency released body camera footage of the encounter, which shows a deputy arrive on scene and tell a man repeatedly to put his hands on the hood of a police cruiser. When the man refuses, the officer repeatedly tells him to sit down.

The man is heard saying he’s done nothing wrong and says, “They approached us first, man,” but it’s not clear who he is referring to.

The deputy radios dispatch that he has made contact and that the man is uncooperative, and then tells the man, “Sit down, dude. We’ll figure this out.”

The man sits on a rock after the deputy tells him to, and he says, “I told them to call the police” and “I waited for you.”

The video shows deputies approach the man, telling him they were going to do a pat-down. The man says, “I don’t have nothing.”

The two deputies handcuff him while the man says, “I’m not even being resistant.” He asks why he is being detained and deputies do not answer, the video shows.

While he is being handcuffed, the man is heard saying his arm is “f**ked up.”

After the man is handcuffed, one angle of the footage shows a deputy forcing him to the ground. He tells the deputy that he’s “not going to fight” him, and that his wife has cancer.

While the man was being handcuffed, a woman recorded video of it – separate from the bystander that authorities say also recorded video.

In one deputy’s body camera footage, the woman can be heard saying, “You can’t touch me” as the deputy approaches her and reaches for her cell phone and says, “Stop.”

A struggle ensues and the woman is thrown to the ground by the deputy, video shows. “Get down on the ground,” the deputy says multiple times. The deputy’s hand is seen placed on the back of the woman’s neck.

“Stop or you’re gonna get punched in the face,” the deputy says, and the woman threatens to sue him.

The unidentified woman says she can’t breathe and tells the officer to “stop manhandling” her. The deputy sprays a substance into the woman’s face. It is not clear whether the spray was mace or pepper spray. CNN has sought clarification from the sheriff’s department.

The deputy’s knee is placed on her back as he attempts to handcuff the woman, who requests “a commander” repeatedly and states that she isn’t doing anything. The deputy continues trying to handcuff her and says she will get “sprayed again.”

In one clip, the woman can be heard yelling from the ground for a commander. The man tells the deputy, “You don’t have to do this sh*t bro. That’s wrong, man.”

Once the woman is handcuffed, the man is brought over by the other deputy. The man asks the woman if she’s all right. “No, he throw me to the ground,” she replies.

One angle of footage ends with the man and the woman being placed in separate police cars.

Deputies reassigned from field duty

The man involved was arrested and cited on suspicion of resisting or delaying an officer, petty theft or attempt at petty theft, and interfering with a business, Luna said. The woman was arrested and cited on suspicion of assaulting an officer and battery after assaulting loss prevention personnel inside the market.

Both have been released, according to Deputy Miesha McClendon.

The footage will be reviewed “to determine if the force used was reasonable, necessary, appropriate, and proportional to the level of actions described,” the sheriff’s department said in the release.

Both deputies have been reassigned from field duty “pending further administrative review,” according to the department.

“We take the use of force very seriously and are determined to establish the facts of the incident,” the release reads.

The investigation into the incident will include the body camera footage, surveillance video from the store and cell phone video taken by the bystander, the sheriff’s department said.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Virginia Langmaid contributed to this report.

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