LA area officer put on leave after video shows him punching handcuffed assault suspect


WESTMINSTER, Cal. (KTLA) — A Los Angeles area police officer is on paid leave after cellphone video appeared to capture him punching a woman in the face while arresting her on suspicion of assault, authorities said Thursday.

A video circulated widely on social media shows a woman trying to stand while Westminster Police Department officers have her in handcuffs and sitting on a curb around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

As she gets up, two officers holding her pull her down to the ground, at which point she appears to struggle and move her legs, although the angle of the video makes it difficult to see. Then one of the officers throws a punch to her face with his right arm — twice.

Another officer on the scene then intervenes, saying “no, no, no,” as he and the other officer push away the officer who hit the woman.

Westminster Police said in a statement the officer struck the woman after she “became combative” before the two other officers on the scene stopped him and kept the situation from escalating.

Sandy Armenta was standing outside with her father and neighbor, recording video as the incident unfolded. She told NewsNation affiliate KTLA it appeared the woman kicked the officer before he began punching her.

“The other two officers told him to stop, and they backed him up, and he wasn’t on the scene anymore,” Armenta.

The officer, who has not been identified, was placed on leave following a “careful review of the video and based on the totality of the circumstances,” the Westminster Police Department said.

Police say the woman, identified by police as 34-year-old Ciomara Garcia of Westminster, was suspected of assaulting another woman who had tried to rescue a dog as it ran into the street.

She was being arrested on a felony warrant for vandalism when, according to the department, the officers called paramedics because she appeared to be under the influence. They were waiting for paramedics to arrive when the incident happened.

The department said no injuries were reported after she was evaluated at a hospital following her arrest.

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