When is an elbow to the face an appropriate use of force by a cop?

That seems to be the big question surrounding the caught-on-tape confrontation between a “special needs” woman, 42-year-old Julie Nelson, and an L.A. County sheriff's deputy on-board a Metro bus Monday night.

Embattled “Teflon Sheriff” Lee Baca and his department have started a campaign against Nelson after the footage was broadcast. Sheriff's officials released audio of a 911 call (after the jump) summoning cops to the bus because the woman, the caller said, was “trying to pick a fight on anybody.”

While Baca told KNX 1070 Newsradio yesterday that ” … the individual deputy who swung an elbow at the lady is looking at that as a sensible solution, we need to restrain that individual,” his department is already heading toward a conclusion:

That the deputy was right.

Consider it's quick release of the 911 call, in which the man says:

Bus lady 911 call by dennisjromero

She almost hit an old man…she seems like she got out of prison… I'll beat up all you guys…there's some ladies here also and we, we're trying to stay away from her.. and she is trying to pick a fight with anybody…She's on the bus with us, oh my God…

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told our Simone Wilson this week that ” … she's a large woman with some mental challenges … She has four previous arrests and convictions for assault on a police officer … “

(Interesting how cops, whose job it is to be quick to judge, are always cautioning us to wait for “the investigation” before coming to conclusions about their own — as they affect maximum spin in the meantime).

If the deputy is so innocent, why did he allegedly threaten the videographer with arrest if he didn't hand over his cellphone?

Despite her alleged special needs, Nelson, who was put on a mental “5150” hold without being arrested, is fighting back.

She told NBC Los Angeles:

I have never put my hand ever on a deputy. Never.

That, however, seems to contradict her record, at least according to what Whitmore told us.

Bottom line: Yeah, she seemed out-of-control. But, despite its popularity in mixed martial arts (UFC) fighting, throwing elbow doesn't appear to be in any law enforcement training manual.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

LA Weekly