Patrick Healey and Lori Bentley
Julie Nelson is famous. She's the woman seen being roughed up by L.A. County deputies on a bus in a cellphone video. She's back on the streets now, but she's getting some help
A woman seen in a cell phone video being struck by a sheriff's deputy claims she was never physically aggressive towards the deputy.
"I have never put my hands on a deputy, never," said Julie Nelson, who spoke with NBC4 Wednesday night.
The incident garnered national attention after exclusive video of the violent exchange was posted on NBCLA.com Tuesday evening. The video was recorded by passenger Jermaine Green.
"They said get off the bus. She then started cursing at (the female deputy). You could tell she had special needs. After that they grab her, she curses him out, calls him a big shot, next thing you know he gives her a big shot," Green said.
Late Wednesday, officials released a 911 call made by a passenger who said the woman threatened violence.
"She's trying to pick a fight with anybody, she almost hit an old man," the caller said. "She was talking about how she got out of prison and 'I'll beat up all you guys.'"
Nelson, 42, was put on a mental observation hold, but not arrested. NBC LA spoke to Nelson after she was released.
Nelson admits there was a verbal confrontation at the bus stop before she boarded the bus.
"The guy was scaring me the way he was looking at me," Nelson said. "I didn't touch him though. I know better than to touch people."
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the woman has four prior convictions for assaulting police officers.
Sheriff Lee Baca confirmed it was his understanding the woman was homeless and had a history of mental problems.
"She's noted for having verbal conflicts with people in the community, and she's been noted also to get in verbal conflicts with law enforcement," said Baca. "And she's assaulted on several occasions law enforcement officers."
"I think I have an obligation to understand what this lady's plight is. And I have a greater obligation to make sure she's just not spending all this time in jail and then when she gets out she's back on the street," Baca said.
It was also revealed Wednesday that in addition to Green's video, the surveillance system on the bus recorded still images of the incident, said Metro spokesman Mark Littman. The sheriff's department has requested those images, Littman said.
Metro would not release those images to the media due to the ongoing LASD investigation.
One witness told NBC LA that prior to the exchange caught on Green's video, the woman shoved both deputies so forcefully that he thought she was on PCP.
Neighbors described the woman as a regular in the area, and she was often seen sleeping behind a nearby CVS. Neighbors also described her as being habitually aggressive and having mental health issues.
Childhood friends came to Nelson's support Wednesday night, including one who did not want to be identified.
"She's had some issues in life that have caused her to end up on the streets, and as you can see she has mental issues. She does need meds, but has been off them," the person said.
"We're going to take her and put her somewhere safe, same thing we always do, feed her, help her out, we love her," another friend said.
Thursday, a Bellflower organization called "Kingdom Causes" came to Nelson's aid, with plans to do as much as possible.
"The idea is, we need to get people housed first," said the group's director, Ryan Van Wys. "Then we can help them with all of the problems that are part of their homelessness."