Authorities in California are investigating a deputy sheriff’s use of force against a 14-year-old boy after a viral video showed the officer pinning the teen to the ground and punching him in the chest.
Politicians, including former Democratic presidential candidates Julián Castro and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), decried the Sacramento County deputy’s violent handling of the teenager as “sickening” and “horrific,” and demanded accountability.
The video, first posted to Twitter by a person who identified herself as the boy’s sister, shows a white officer hitting the boy, who is Black, as he attempts to detain him. The officer, who is much bigger than the teen, appears to strike the boy repeatedly with a closed fist, push his face into the ground and yank him roughly by the arm.
In a follow-up tweet, the Twitter user said the teen has “a serious heart condition that could be triggered very easily by being hit in his chest/back! He’s a kid and has never been in any kind of trouble with the law!”
She said the boy was found to be in possession of a “Swisher,” a brand of cigar, and was charged with resisting arrest.
The Rancho Cordova Police Department and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office said in a joint statement that the officer was responding to complaints of alcohol, tobacco and drug sales to minors on Monday when he “saw what he believed to be a hand-to-hand exchange between an adult and juvenile.” The deputy was assigned to work with the police department under the city’s contract for police services.
The teen later admitted to KTXL-TV that he had asked a stranger to purchase tobacco for him and had it in his hand when the officer approached. He said he immediately handed over the cigar, but the cop became confrontational anyway.
The boy acknowledged he lied and was uncooperative. “I know that and I made that mistake. But that didn’t give him no right to do what he did,” he told the station.
The police department and sheriff’s office said the teen lied about his age, claiming he was 18, and resisted when the officer tried to detain him.
“When the deputy approached the juvenile, the juvenile was uncooperative and refused to give the deputy basic identifying information,” their statement said. “The juvenile became physically resistive at that time, causing the deputy to lose control of his handcuffs, which landed several feet away. The deputy attempted to maintain control of the juvenile without his handcuffs and while alone waiting for his partners to arrive and assist him.”
The boy told KTXL-TV that he was eventually handcuffed, placed in the back of a patrol car and cited before being released.
The sheriff’s office and police department said they were investigating.
“This type of situation is hard on everyone ― the young man, who resisted arrest, and the officer, who would much rather have him cooperate,” their statement said.
On Twitter on Tuesday, Harris called out the officer’s actions as a “horrific abuse of power.”
Castro said the video was “sickening, and demands immediate action. How many of these videos must we see before we do something about police violence in this country?”
For his part, the teen said he has “nothing against the cop” who hit him.
“I mean, I do forgive him ... He was just doing his job, I guess,” he told KTXL-TV.
He added that he’d apologize to the officer if he had a chance.
“I’m sorry for the way that I acted towards you and for not cooperating,” the boy told the station of what he would tell the deputy. “And I just hope that we could meet again and be on better terms.”