WESTMINSTER (CBSLA) — A Westminster Police Department officer has been placed on paid administrative leave after punching a handcuffed woman, the department said Thursday.
According to the police department, officers were called at about 4 p.m. Wednesday to the 14100 block of Locust Street for reports of an assault and battery. Police said the caller reported a Hispanic woman had assaulted an Asian woman who had tried to rescue a dog running in the street.
Neighbors said the Asian woman and Garcia exchanged words over Garcia's unleashed dog, before Garcia put a hand on the woman's arm.
"She basically put her fist on her arm but didn't hit her, and that's when the Asian woman left and, like 20 minutes later, came back with cops and like seven or eight cops showed up," a witness said.
When officers arrived, they found 34-year-old Ciomara Garcia, of Westminster, and identified her as a suspect in the reported assault.
Adolpho Rosales, Garcia's brother, said the officers arrived at their home calling out her name.
"She's bipolar, she has schizophrenia," he said. "I think they could do a better job since they already have history with her, they already know her."
During the investigation, officers learned Garcia had an outstanding felony bench warrant for vandalism.
Officers then handcuffed Garcia, who police said "exhibited signs of being under the influence." The department said while waiting for paramedics to arrive at the scene, Garcia "became combative with the officers."
One of the officers, who has not been identified, then punched Garcia twice in the face, according to the department. Two other officers "immediately intervened and deescalated the situation," the department said.
Sandy Armento, who lives across the street, shot the cell phone video of the altercation circulating on social media.
"They just, like, get her up and like they just push her back down," she said. "I think she got hurt so she like started obviously being aggressive."
Armento said the officer punched Garcia after she kicked him in the upper thigh after being pushed back down to the ground.
Garcia was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. No injuries were reported, the department said, and she was booked into the Orange County Jail on the warrant. She is also facing charges of assault and battery on the Asian woman, resisting arrest, assault on a police officer and being under the influence of a controlled substance.
The officer who struck her was placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation following review of cell phone video that captured the incident, the department said. The Orange County District Attorney's Office will evaluate the officer's actions and decide whether or not criminal charges are warranted, the department said.
"The Westminster Police Department is well aware of portions of the video circulating on social media," the department said in a statement. "The Westminster Police Department considers this a serious event and will ensure that this investigation will be guided by the law and the truth."
Video of the incident can be seen below.
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