SOUTH GATE (CBSLA.com) — Federal officials said Tuesday they are investigating the actions of a U.S. Marshals Service employee who was caught on video grabbing a woman’s cellphone in South Gate, throwing it to the ground and kicking it away.
The video, which was filmed by another woman across the street from the police activity, was posted on YouTube and shows a woman using her cellphone to record a law enforcement operation. In the video, a Marshals Service employee approaches her, grabs the phone and slams it on the ground.
“On (Sunday), a YouTube video entitled ‘South Gate Police Attack Cop Watcher: Destroys Cellphone’ surfaced online that appears to show a law enforcement officer removing an object from a woman’s hand,” South Gate police Capt. Darren Arakawa said.
“The South Gate Police Department confirmed none of the individuals shown in the video involve South Gate police personnel,” Arakawa said. “The caption on the video suggesting that the officer is a member of the South Gate Police Department is erroneous.
“South Gate police determined that the officer involved is employed by the United States Marshals (Service), and their staff is aware of the incident,” Arakawa said.
The woman in the video, Beatriz Paez, was apparently out for a walk when she came upon what appeared to be a massive federal operation in her neighborhood involving local bikers.
The video shows Paez standing away from the law enforcement officers, wearing tactical vests emblazoned with the word “POLICE,” holding her phone up as she records the scene and occasionally speaking to the officers.
At one point, a bald man in a tactical vest, safety glasses and a large gun slung over one shoulder runs up to the woman and grabs for her phone, wrestles it away from her, throws it on the ground and kicks it at her.
Paez is then seen backing away, then coming back for what’s left of her phone as the officers walk away.
The ACLU of Southern California released a statement Tuesday, saying they were “deeply disturbed” by the video.
“There is no situation in which an officer can intentionally grab and destroy a camera being used to lawfully record law enforcement. The officer’s conduct is a blatant and deliberate violation of the Constitution and his duties as an officer to abide by the law. Members of the public, on a public street, unquestionably have a First Amendment right to record law enforcement officers, acting in the course of their duties. Indeed, as recent events have shown, video recording of law enforcement activity plays a crucial role in holding police accountable for misconduct — particularly in California, where public access to information about officer misconduct is limited by state law,” the statement said.
The U.S. Marshals Service employee remains on the job.
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