Chula Vista, CA – A viral cell phone video that showed a 14-year-old girl being tackled by a Chula Vista police officer has sparked an internal investigation into the officer’s use of force during the altercation.
The incident occurred at approximately 4 p.m. on Wednesday at a community park near Castle Park High School, an area where the Chula Vista Police Department had recently increased patrols due to a rise in gang activity, KNSD reported.
An officer patrolling the area spotted a teen flashing a gang sign, and stopped to make contact with him, according to KGTV.
The officer also requested backup.
The circumstances of the exchange between the teens and police prior to the altercation were unclear, and were not captured in the video footage.
“Immediately precipitating the officer’s use of force on the 14-year-old, that 14-year-old threw an empty plastic bottle directly into the chest of a female sergeant,” Chula Vista Police Captain Vern Sallee told KGTV. “It was a very tense and fluid situation. We understand the public’s concern, and we don’t take this lightly.”
Surrounded by the crowd of juveniles, a male officer held his baton horizontally in front of his chest, as he plowed into the 14-year-old girl, knocking her to the ground, the video showed.
The officers appeared to be placing the teen into handcuffs when the video ended.
"We have one snippet of video that has been seen on Facebook that has a very limited viewpoint of what occurred," Capt. Sallee explained, according to KNSD. "It doesn't even really show the assault on the police sergeant... I can say nothing that we've seen so far would warrant changing the status of the officer's duty status."
Four teens, including the 14-year-old girl, were arrested on charges including battery and assault on a police officer, and failure to obey a police officer, KGTV reported. The juveniles have already been released to their parents and guardians.
Several students told KNSD that the park is a popular hangout spot after school, and claimed that they were just flashing peace signs.
Logan Moreno, 17, claimed that the entire incident began after he asked a passing officer if he wanted to play football.
“When they were passing I said, 'Do you want to catch?’ to the cop and then we threw the peace sign up and they left and later came back saying we were throwing up gang signs at them,” the 17-year-old Palomar High School student claimed.
The 14-year-old girl’s friends told the news outlet that she wasn’t a threat to the officers.
“She did not threaten him,” Ernesto Velazquez told KNSD. “He was over 30 years old, over 200 pounds and to drop a little girl that is 14. It’s not right."
They did not address why she threw the bottle at the officer.
The internal investigation will determine whether the officer’s use of force was justified, KGTV reported.
“The Chula Vista Police Department holds our officers to the highest levels of standards, and we will investigate this thoroughly and hold any officer found to have violated policy or law…they will be held accountable,” Capt. Sallee said.
You can see the edited clip of the incident below: