Updated at the bottom: Sheriff's officials try to justify the use of force.
The L.A. Sheriff's Department is up to its neck right now in allegations of gang-like behavior and beatings by deputies gone rogue.
This cellphone video, shot by Bellflower bus passenger Jermaine Green on Monday night and aired by NBC LA, won't help. It shows two sheriff's deputies climbing onto the bus, confronting a woman pushing a strollerful of pillows (she apparently has special needs) and, uh, socking her in the face.
The cherry on top:
Green claims the male deputy approached him afterward and said, “You can be under arrest if you don't give me that video.” Chump move, but we can see why he might not want this horrific footage to hit the Internet:
Strangely, Green tells NBC reporters that the deputies called the woman by name before punching her lights out — suggesting they might have a history with her. When they told her to get off the bus, the victim reportedly starting cussing and calling the male deputy a “bigshot.” (Which was enough for him to feel, somehow, that excessive use of force was in order. “Then he gave her a big shot,” says the videographer. Heh.)
Green adds that serving six years in the army taught him this is never, ever how you treat a nonviolent civilian. Ouch, Baca: Your fleet is now getting schooled by war vets on simple rules of engagement.
“It was like they were tired of dealing with her so they didn't try to talk to her or anything,” Green's fiance, Violet Roberts, tells NBC.
As for the attempted confiscation of Green's cellphone — a classic intimidation tactic, especially under the sheriff's constitutionally challenged policy on photographing deputies in action.
We've contacted the Sheriff's Department for comment.
Update, 10 a.m.: Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore just called us back to give us some history on the beatdown. Here's what he says:
“We got a 911 call of a violent woman on a bus, [saying] she almost attacked an elderly man. Lakewood deputies responded. And we know this woman by the way — she has 4 previous arrests and convictions for assault on a police officer. … She's a large woman with some mental challenges, and she became aggressive toward our deputies.”
Whitmore says both Internal Affairs and the Office of Independent review are monitoring a use-of-force investigation “as we speak.” He won't give us the names of the deputies involved, but says they'll be interviewed for the investigation, along with a review of the 911 tape and cellphone video.
Green, the man behind the tape, has “made some allegations against us,” says Whitmore. “We're certainly going to look at that.”
We ask the spokesman if said investigation includes the deputy's alleged attempt to snatch Green's cellphone, after the fact. Whitmore plays it safe on that one: “Everything is going to be looked at,” he says. “Everything. If something's inappropriate, we're going to take the appropriate action.”