Cop Punts Suspect's Head; High Five Ensues | NBC Southern California

Cop Punts Suspect's Head; High Five Ensues

Fleeing from police, endangering lives earns boot to the head

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    NBC Los Angeles
    An officer kicks the head of a suspect surrendering to police.

    LOS ANGELES -- Despite lying on the ground with his arms and legs spread, a suspect -- who police say is a known gang member -- got a face full of police boot on Wednesday.

    The kicking cop added insult to injury by giving a post-beating high five. The incident has sparked outrage on both sides of the argument (scroll down to the comments to verify that statement).

    Police Answer Brutality Questions

    [LA] Police Answer Brutality Questions
    Police answer questions about the kicking of a suspect. (Published Thursday, May 14, 2009)

    On Thursday, El Monte Police Lt. Ken Alva said that the officer has been reassigned to non-patrol duties, while El Monte police and the Los Angeles County Sherriff's Department conduct separate and concurrent investigations.

    The department is withholding judgment until the investigations are completed.

    "I worked internal affairs for four years and I have learned that you do not make a decision in a vacuum," El Monte Police Chief Tom Armstrong said Wednesday. "I do not know what was in the mind of that officer, as to why he did that. I saw the individual turn his head toward the officer."

    As for the officer with a flashlight seen striking the suspect in the video, Armstrong said, "...it appears (the suspect) had his arm underneath his body. You cannot see what was in his hand."

    That officer has not been reassigned during the investigations, Alva said Thursday.

    "This is going to be looked into, and it should be. ...I'm not here to make a decision or tell you what that officer did was overtly wrong until I know all the facts," Armstrong said.

    The driver has been identified as 23-year-old Richard Rodriguez of El Monte.

    Rodriguez was booked on suspicion of felony evading. He also was held for possible parole violation, meaning he is not eligible for bail.

    Rodriguez is a known gang member, Carlson said. He was making hand signs during the pursuit forming an F, "as in the El Monte Flores gang sign."

    The pursuit began about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at an attempted traffic stop in El Monte, police said. Authorities tried to stop the motorist for a traffic violation, said California Highway Patrol Officer Jose Nunez.

    Rodriguez opted to keep going, heading onto the eastbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway, then exited in Baldwin Park, police said.

    The driver had two passengers in the car, but when the vehicle came to a stop in traffic, one of them jumped out and surrendered to police. The driver, however, sped off again, and unidentified objects were thrown out of the car.

    The driver used a sidewalk to avoid traffic before getting back onto the eastbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway, where he was met by two patrol units.

    Going about 85 mph, Rodriguez took the 10 to the southbound San Gabriel River (605) Freeway and exited on Whittier Boulevard, where the car immediately slammed into a sport utility vehicle.

    One of the occupants was taken into custody almost immediately and Rodriguez ran to the back of a nearby apartment complex and was arrested there.