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Exclusive: LAPD Officer Being Investigated About Punching Woman In Lockup

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Los Angeles police officer is being investigated after video showed him punching a woman twice in the face while she was in lockup.

CBS2’s Investigative Reporter David Goldstein obtained a copy of the confrontation.

The incident occurred late at night in February in the LAPD’s Van Nuys division and was also recorded on the station’s surveillance tape.

The 35-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of petty theft.

The officer said the woman “aggressively” moved toward him. He said because of her aggressive move, he was forced to kick and punch her.

Authorities told Goldstein there were inconsistencies in the officer’s report about the incident.

The story also comes to light at the same time the CHP is involved in a case involving an officer caught on video repeatedly punching a woman in the face along a freeway.

The tape involving the LAPD officer shows him kicking and then punching the woman twice in the face.

The struggle between the officer and the woman, and then the officer’s partner, is brief. It lasts about 15 seconds.

Goldstein showed the video to Cheryl Dorsey, a former LAPD officer who retired after 20 years in the department. He asked her if the tape shows the use of excessive force.

“Absolutely, it’s excessive,” Dorsey said. “I don’t see anything that she did that would warrant that kind of assault.”

She said she felt the officer’s actions crossed a line.

“The kick was inappropriate, in my opinion,” Dorsey said, “and the subsequent blows, the closed fists to her face, head, was inappropriate. It was excessive.”

According to the arrest report obtained by CBS2 News, police said the woman was arrested Feb. 23 at a 7-Eleven store in Van Nuys after allegedly failing to pay for a can of beer and some candy.

In his report, Officer Alvin Clark said the woman who is described as Hispanic told him: “You (expletive) negroes don’t know who are you are dealing with.”

He said she began to spit, excessively throw her head violently from side to side and bite at the air.

The woman  was taken to the Van Nuys station and put in a holding cell. In the cell, suspects are monitored by closed-circuit video without sound.

After about 25 minutes, Clark returns to the holding cell and takes off the woman’s handcuffs. He said in his report that he asked the woman to take off her jewelry.

When she dropped an earring to the floor, the officer writes, he asked her to pick it up.

Goldstein froze the video at the point where Clark said the woman advanced toward him. He said she advanced toward the door with her body in a fighting stance, “hands closed in a fist.”

He said he “executed a side kick” and then approached her “to apply handcuffs.”

After restarting the video, Goldstein says, the tape shows the woman  moving and Clark kicking and then following up with punches and a struggle.

Richard Lichten, a use-of-force expert who spent 30 years with the LA County Sheriff’s Department, says what he saw on the video doesn’t match the report.

“After the officer kicked the suspect,” said Lichten, “from what I saw on tape, he immediately went up to her and began using his fists, punching her. I did not see any attempt to handcuff her.”

He adds: “To me, it looks like punishment. It looks like ‘You didn’t do what I told you to do. I’ve been dealing with you for the ride here and now you’re going to pay.’ “

LAPD officials told Goldstein the confrontation has been under investigation since it happened, both an internal and criminal probe. They told him there are “some” inconsistencies between the arrest report and the videotape.

“The inconsistencies indicated there was a discrepancy between the kind of force reportedly being used and the actual force that was observed on the tape,” LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman said.

Police officials wouldn’t get into specifics with Goldstein about the inconsistencies. They did say the two officers involved in the confrontation have been assigned home with pay while the investigation continues.

The woman was treated for wounds and charged with resisting arrest.

[Editor's Note: CBS2 did not release the suspect's name because we have been unable to track her down.]

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