PERRIS (CBSLA) – The arrest of a flower vendor has sparked a lawsuit against the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department after the woman claimed she was brutally taken into custody.

Joaquina Valencia couldn’t hold back her tears as she sat with her attorneys more than a year since a bystander shot video of Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputies arresting her outside Perris High School in Perris. She said the incident still haunts her.

“She’s grabbed by the hair and pulled down and body slammed to the sidewalk. Ms. Valenica never resisted, and you can tell by the video, she never struck him, she didn’t have any weapons, she didn’t try to run away,” said Valencia’s attorney, Ralph Rios.

Valencia was selling flowers during the high school graduation ceremony in June 2017. According to the sheriff’s department, she did not have a permit, and she and several other vendors were blocking traffic by walking into the street.

A deputy’s body camera was rolling, as she was detained. The department said Valencia, who was identified as Juanita Mendez-Medrano at the time, was the only vendor who resisted when they tried to issue a citation.

In a statement they released after the arrest, the department said, in part:

“Unfortunately, the video did not capture the other vendors cooperating with the citation process, nor did it capture our officer’s repeated efforts to convince Ms. Mendez-Medrano to do the same.”

Her attorneys said she is a U.S. citizen with no criminal record and did not deserve to be treated this way.

“Just because the individual has brown skin and doesn’t appear to understand the English language doesn’t mean that individual is here illegally. Doesn’t mean that individual is a bad person.
They hope this case will bring about changes, so no one else goes through something like this,”  “We’re hoping this type of lawsuit will at least prompt law enforcement to change their policies

Both the county and sheriff’s department said they can’t comment on pending litigation.

Valencia’s attorneys admitted she did not give the correct name when she was stopped, but that was because she was nervous. She was originally charged with giving false information, but the district attorney dropped that charge.

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