LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — An LAFD firefighter has been suspended for 12 days after LAPD body camera footage called into question whether the firefighter used excessive force on a suspect.
The incident occurred on March 20, 2019, when a Black man was arrested for assaulting a woman with a brick in South L.A. The man had to be taken to USC Medical Center after he hit his head in the patrol car.
Body camera footage publicly released on Tuesday shows a firefighter, identified as Derek Farrow, hitting the man twice on the head while he was handcuffed to a gurney and tightening a towel around his head.
LAPD says the man then yelled, “I can’t breathe.”
The video footage has no audio, because LAPD said it is a policy that officers turn off their body cameras when entering a hospital. However, when a supervisor saw the altercation occurring, he turned his back on.
“Upon activation, both audio and video of our body worn cameras will turn on,” said LAPD Capt. Stacy Spell. “However, the devices have a buffer of video without audio from the previous two minutes prior to activation.”
The buffer video was able to capture the incident. It is unclear what happened before the incident.
Internal records obtained by the L.A. Times show that the fire department’s top medical director reviewed the footage and expressed concerns in October 2019 about whether Farrow might have violated state law by using excessive force on the suspect.
LAFD confirmed that an investigation into the incident found policy violations in a statement to CBSLA.
“The LAFD conducted an administrative investigation regarding this incident and sustained allegations of violations of Department policy,” the statement read. “The member has been suspended, without pay for 12 days.”
It is unclear when Farrow was placed on suspension or if he will be able to return to the field once it is over.
The L.A. firefighters union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.