VISTA, Calif. — An internal review was underway Wednesday into accusations of excessive force, triggered by the online posting of a short video clip that seems to show sheriff’s deputies in Vista roughly treating two restrained suspects.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that two of the deputies seen in the video have been placed on paid administrative assignment pending the outcome of the investigation.
The 22-second video clip posted this week by Facebook user Ashley Tovar shows six San Diego County deputies arresting two men. While walking with one of the handcuffed suspects, one of the lawmen appears to shove him toward a wooden fence, causing his head to slam into it.
Seconds later, a deputy appears to repeatedly strike a man who is lying face down on a concrete sidewalk with two deputies restraining him. It is unclear if the man on the ground is handcuffed, but the video shows what looks like a sudden burst of movement from the suspect and both deputies. One of the deputies restraining the man then pushes his face and head roughly into the ground before striking him three times. It’s unclear if he used an open hand or closed fist while hitting the restrained man.
Sheriff Bill Gore promised to thoroughly investigate the conduct of the involved deputies, who have been transferred to desk duty pending completion of the probe.
“Upon reviewing the video, we immediately opened an internal investigation into the actions taken by the deputies,” Gore said in a statement released late Wednesday morning. “This review will be comprehensive and include reviewing body-worn camera video, all relevant reports and interviews with involved parties.”
The video depicts part of the department’s response to a domestic violence call regarding a man allegedly wielding a weapon and falsely imprisoning a person, according to sheriff’s officials. It was posted to Facebook at 8:51 a.m. Tuesday. In a little less than 24 hours, it had garnered more than 77,000 views.
The Sheriff’s Department issued a news release with a description of the arrest. According to the release, a woman called 911 and reported that she was a victim of domestic violence and was being held against her will. Deputies responded and arrested and jailed Gerardo Martinez Jr. on several suspicion of false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon. His father, Gerardo Martinez Sr., was arrested for obstructing deputies. Martinez Sr. was released from jail after posting bond.
The Rev. Shane Harris, president of the San Diego chapter of the National Action Network, plans to “call on the San Diego (County) Sheriff’s Department to release body-camera footage of the full incident,” the organization said in a statement.
The incident came on the heels of a similar excessive force claim in Florida, where a citizen captured video of a Miami police officer kicking at the head of a restrained and handcuffed suspect who was lying on the ground. Though body-camera footage released by police showed that the officer’s foot missed his apparent target, he was charged Tuesday with misdemeanor assault.