WARNING: The video below contains images and language that viewers may find disturbing.
SAN DIEGO — Video of two San Diego police officers taking a man to the ground then punching him in the face and body multiple times during a struggle has led to an investigation by the police department.
Nicole Bansal shared the video with FOX 5 on Wednesday after witnessing the encounter at Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Village Drive. The San Diego Police Department said two officers were on patrol there around 9 a.m. when they saw a man urinating in public.
The four-minute video starts with one officer grabbing the man’s arm as the second officer wraps his arms around the man from behind. The man, who is wearing a life jacket around his neck, is taken to the ground within a few seconds and an officer is seen punching him in the face multiple times.
Officers can be heard in the video telling the man to stop resisting and put his hands behind his back. At one point, the man grabs an officer’s radio and throws it, and swats a hand in an officer’s face as they hold him down.
The video shows officers holding the man on the ground for about 2 1/2 minutes, punching him in the leg and arm several more times before two more officers arrive and join them in holding the man down. The video ends with more patrol cars and an ambulance arriving.
Video of the arrest led Francine Maxwell, president of the NAACP San Diego branch, to email a letter to police Chief David Nisleit demanding an investigation.
“To yell ‘stop resisting’ and to continually punch and slap this man was clearly not conducive to calming the situation. The SDPD has a de-escalation policy that requires you to use time and space to defuse a situation, rather than immediately move to force. It seems to us that there was ample space to de-escalate,” the letter said.
A San Diego Police Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement Wednesday night that they were aware of the video and internal affairs was investigating.
“The officers decided to approach the man because urinating in public violates the law. The man would not stop to speak with officers therefore an officer held the man to detain him,” the statement said. “Despite the officers repeatedly telling the man to “stop resisting”, the man would not comply. One of the officers struck the man several times. The man was taken into custody and transported to the hospital.”
The police department said the man was later released from the hospital and booked into county jail on suspicion of resisting arrest and battery on a police officer.
Bansal told the San Diego-Union Tribune that she recognized the man as someone she believes to be homeless who frequents the area.
“There was no movement made to de-escalate,” Bansal told the paper. “The immediate movement was to take him down. I don’t understand.”
The internal affairs unit will review the officers’ body camera video, the police department said.
City Councilmember Joe LaCava, who represents the district where the arrest took place, called the video “a tragedy and a disgrace,” and said the situation had called for a crisis response team rather than police officers.
“It is a matter of expertise and tools,” LaCava said. “You would not send a doctor to arrest a criminal, police should not respond to mental health situations. This event obligated precious resources from the SDPD, the hospital and the jails.
“This individual will likely be back on the street unconnected to resources. I demand better and will vote on the budget to require it.”
The councilmember said he specifically is pushing for funding Mobile Crisis Response Teams in the neighborhoods he represents, which are made up of non-law enforcement professionals who can respond to calls where there is not believed to be a violent threat and try to de-escalate situations and connect people with resources.
A county program dispatching MCRT teams has been in a trial stage in North County and will soon expand to the South Bay.