The FBI is investigating whether El Monte police violated the civil rights of a chase suspect they were caught on videotape kicking and hitting while arresting, a bureau spokeswoman confirmed today.
Richard Rodriguez, 23, of El Monte, led police on a high-speed pursuit May 13, after they tried to stop his vehicle for a traffic violation.
The pursuit ended in a crash in Pico Rivera, and Rodriguez bolted from the wrecked car and tried to hide in a nearby backyard, where he was cornered by El Monte officers, who ordered him to lay face down on the ground with his arms outstretched.
News helicopters airing the chase live showed Rodriguez appearing to comply with the police order to get down on the ground, and the first officer to reach Rodriguez kicking him in the head.
A second officer hit him with his flashlight as he was being handcuffed, and the officer who kicked Rodriguez exchanged a "high five" with an K-9 officer holding onto a police dog.
Afterwards, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California called for the officer to be suspended and an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.
El Monte police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are investigating the arrest, and today, Laura Eimiller of the FBI confirmed that a federal investigation into the incident is under way.
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"Our investigation will parallel the (local) investigations," Eimiller siad.
In a statement, the El Monte police department stated that, "Police Chief Tom Armstrong and his staff welcome this additional independent review of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Rodriguez's arrest and are confident that the investigation is in the best interests of both the public and the police department and its members."
According to the statement, the El Monte Police "will cooperate with and facilitate the FBI investigation in any way possible."
Rodriguez was booked on suspicion of felony evading and a possible parole violation.
He is being held in lieu of $135,000 bail at Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles.