SOUTH GATE (AP) — The U.S. Marshals Service said Tuesday that it’s reviewing a video that shows a deputy grab a woman’s cellphone from her hands, smashing it to the floor.
In the 53-second videoposted on YouTube on Sunday, a woman on the sidewalk appears to be filming officers with her cellphone and making comments when a deputy U.S. Marshal charges at her.
The video was spotted by a South Gate police officer because its caption mentioned the department, and an investigation ensued, Capt. Darren Arakawa said.
No South Gate police were involved in the incident, which has generated dozens of phone calls and email complaints to him and the department’s chief from across the United States, Arakawa said. His officers were securing the area Sunday for an ongoing taskforce operation related to the Mongols Motorcycle Club, he said.
There was no complaint initiated by the woman involved to police, Arakawa said. But he noted “we have an obligation to look at it, and that’s exactly what we did.”
“We really want to put it out there, because we have to explain to people, to residents, that this wasn’t a police officer,” Arakawa said. “We keep getting these emails suggesting that we’re corrupt. I think it’s an isolated incident that does justify some sort of investigation.”
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Beatriz Paez, 34, said she feared for her life during the confrontation. She said she was out on a stroll Sunday afternoon when she came upon what appeared to be a massive federal operation — a stretch of street was blocked off and up to 10 people were on their stomachs with their hands on their heads.
She took out her cellphone and began filming. But the men wearing tactical vests that read “police” on the back noticed and started backing up to obscure her view.
The men stood with their backs to her and she made comments including “You need to stay away from me, I don’t feel safe with you closer to me.”
Paez said the deputy marshal who ultimately charged her grabbed the phone from her hand and smashed it to the ground — he then kicked a plastic cup down the street that she’d dropped in the struggle.
The phone’s screen is shattered and doesn’t work, according to her attorney Colleen Flynn, but they will be trying to recover Paez’s video from the phone’s chip.
The U.S. Marshals service declined to comment further on the video aside from confirming in a statement that their deputy was involved and that the matter was under review.
Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the video.
“There is no situation in which an officer can intentionally grab and destroy a camera being used to lawfully record law enforcement,” Villagra said. “The officer’s conduct is a blatant and deliberate violation of the Constitution and his duties as an officer to abide by the law.”