Stanton, CA – An Orange County sheriff’s deputy is being accused of "excessive force" after he was recorded delivering several strikes to a combative man’s head.
Now, his department has fired back, saying he “used force appropriate for the situation" (video below).
The incident occurred on Aug. 19, after a concerned citizen asked deputies to check on a man sleeping in a car behind the Corner Pocket bar, KCBS reported.
Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies Eric Ota and Michael Devitt located the intoxicated man, later identified as Mohamed Sayem, sleeping in a Jeep, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The deputies woke Sayem and asked him for his identification, but he refused.
Sayem slumped in the driver’s seat, and provided the deputies with “a number of partially understandable answers, statements, and insults – often chuckling and falling in the car as he delivered them,” according to court documents.
“All he’s asking for is your ID, man,” Deputy Ota told Sayem in the video, as Sayem argued with Deputy Devitt and tried to get out of the Jeep.
Deputy Devitt calmly asked the drunken man to remain in his vehicle on several occasions, but Sayem kept one foot outside the door and repeatedly leaned towards the deputy to begin exiting the vehicle.
“Don’t touch me like that,” Sayem suddenly retorted, slapping Deputy Devitt’s hand away from him.
The deputy reached into the vehicle and grabbed on to Sayem, who fell onto the car’s horn during the scuffle.
Although a portion of the altercation was blocked by the vehicle’s frame and open door, the video showed Sayem as he got out of the Jeep and towered over Deputy Devitt.
“I used my left hand and pushed his face in an effort to create some space between us,” Deputy Devitt wrote in a report, according to the Los Angeles Times. “He did not let go of my vest and continued to physically struggle.”
“Due to his aggressive demeanor, and the fact he was already resisting, I believed Sayem was going to continue to try and physically assault me,” the report read.
As Deputy Devitt tried to gain control of Sayem’s left hand, Sayem firmly gripped the steering wheel with his right hand, the video showed.
Deputy Ota ran around the Jeep to help subdue the combative man, just as Deputy Devitt began delivering strikes to Sayem’s head.
After several punches, Sayem released his hold on the steering wheel and fell to the ground, the video showed.
The deputies repeatedly ordered Sayem to place his hands behind his back as they held him face-down on the pavement.
“You gonna shoot me?” Sayem asked them after he’d been placed in handcuffs.
“Nope,” one of the deputies responded.
“Like to,” the other deputy said.
Sayem was charged with felony resisting arrest, and has pleaded not guilty, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The deputy made every attempt to deescalate the situation and provide the subject multiple opportunities to simply provide his identification,” the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement, according to KCBS.
“The subject refused to do so and attempted to physically engage the deputy, during which the deputy used force appropriate for the situation to gain control of an uncooperative, assaultive and intoxicated person,” the agency said.
But Sayem’s public defender, Scott Sanders, accused the deputies of using excessive force during Sayem’s arrest, and claimed that Deputy Devitt “fictionalized key details,” in his account of what occurred, FOX News reported.
“Don’t create a new false set of facts and then blame it on the defendant,” he told KCBS.
Sanders denied allegations that Sayem tried to push past Deputy Devitt to exit his vehicle, and claimed his client did nothing to justify the force the deputies used during the arrest.
“There should be no punches to the face. He was incredibly intoxicated,” Sanders argued. “There was no reason for force or violence here.”
“He unjustifiably used very significant violence against my client, and he knew he did it without justification,” Sanders told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. “His answer was to make my client a felon for the rest of his life, so he doesn’t get held accountable for his act of violence.”
The sheriff’s department defended the deputy’s account, and noted that the charges against Sayem were filed by the prosecutor – not the deputy, FOX News reported.
"The deputy's report is consistent with the video in its entirety, and charges were filed by the OC District Attorney's office,” the agency said. “Any assertion otherwise substantially misrepresents the facts, and serves only to swell an anti-law enforcement narrative."
You can watch dashcam footage of the deputies’ encounter with Sayem in the video below: