A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy violently attacked a woman filming her husband being handcuffed, and it was all captured on video by another bystander who remains anonymous. The video–later corroborated by the deputy's own bodycam footage–shows him grabbing at her phone then tackling the woman and pepper-spraying her in an apparent attempt to prevent her recording the arrest. The recently-elected sheriff, Robert Luna, admits that the viral footage is "disturbing" and that he only learned of the incident six days after it occured. The woman was cited for assaulting the officer, though it seems clear he was the aggressor.
"It's disturbing. There's no ifs and buts about it," the sheriff said. The Associated Press' efforts to reach the bystander Wednesday were not immediately successful.
The couple, whose names were not released, reportedly matched the descriptions of robbers targeting a grocery store in Lancaster, 72 kilometers (45 miles) northeast of Los Angeles, the sheriff's department said. The body-cam video shows the man sitting on a large rock outside the store and holding a cake before deputies handcuff him as the woman stands a few feet away filming the encounter.
One deputy is seen tackling the woman to the ground. "Get on the ground!" he can be heard shouting as he pins her down with his knee on her neck and shoulder. "Stop or you'll get punched in the face!"
The woman is heard yelling "I can't breathe!" as the deputy is seen pepper-spraying her in the face. She screams, "I didn't do nothin'!" and the man repeatedly tells the other deputy that she has cancer.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is infamous for the proliferation of gangs among its deputies, complete with tattoos, criminal enterprises and other hallmarks of gang activity. The journalistic cliche at hand is that this incident poses a "test" for Luna, elected as a reformer, but he didn't know about it for nearly a week and isn't even able to name the deputy in question.