Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
Vikki Vargas/Kevin Dahlgren
A video showing a Santa Ana school police officer putting a 14-year-old in a chokehold is raising questions about the use of force involving minors. Vikki Vargas reports from Santa Ana for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.
Cellphone video caught a Southern California police officer pinning down a teenager in what appeared to be a chokehold as he cried for help in a park Tuesday morning.
Eliva Fernandez jumped out of her car when she saw an altercation between a 14-year-old boy and a Santa Ana School police officer at Adams Park in Santa Ana around 10 a.m.
"He was crying, screaming ... 'Help me! Help me!" Fernandez said. "He was harming the child, obviously, the way he had him on the floor. He choked him and put his head back. The kid was red."
She saw the teen tagging a bench in the park before the officer threw him to the ground, she said.
This is when the video picked up.
Screams could be heard coming from the teen as the officer tells him not to move.
"He's a little kid," Fernandez yelled to the officer.
The officer appeared to respond to Fernandez by shouting,"He's fighting me."
"He’s not fighting you. Are you crazy? You’re choking him, man," another man yelled.
"It's difficult to say what kind of a hold he had due to the quality of the video…" said Bill Hunt, a former Orange County sheriff’s deputy, who has no affiliation with the Santa Ana School Police Department or the incident, in an email to NBC4.
"Any use of force is not pretty and sometimes uses of force against juveniles and/or women may appear to be excessive, especially without knowing the background."
The boy cried and yelled over to Fernandez that he was getting arrested.
Fernandez tried calming the boy down and told him in Spanish not to move.
The officer responded to her and said, "stop speaking in Spanish."
A second police officer was then seen running toward the scene before Fernandez panned away and the camera turned off.
Deidra Powell, a spokeswoman with the Santa Ana Unified School District, said officials were investigating the incident.
"Safety is our number one concern," she said in a statement. "We don't want to speculate on the case because it may compromise the integrity of the investigation and we want to be fair to all parties."
Fernandez wasn’t sure what happened to the boy.
She said the officers assured her they would call his parents. She posted the video on her Facebook page, which has gained more than 7,000 shares, hoping it would reach the boy's parents and "justice would be served," she said.