LA County Sheriff calls video of deputy throwing woman to ground ‘disturbing'

A witness' video and the deputies' bodycams captured the encounter June 24 in the parking lot of a WinCo store.

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Los Angeles County's sheriff called video of a deputy slamming a woman to the ground and pepper-spraying her in the parking lot of a grocery store "disturbing" as he vowed a thorough investigation into what unfolded after his deputies responded to the business in Lancaster.

Sheriff Robert Luna promised on Wednesday that an “objective” and thorough investigation will be conducted into the actions of the deputy caught on camera. A witness recorded video of the encounter, which also was captured on deputies' bodycams.

Deputies responded tot he WinCo in the northern Los Angeles community after a robbery report from the store. The caller said two customers “were assaulting loss-prevention employees.”

“I want to make it clear to all of our community that this investigation is to objectively -- and I do repeat objectively -- determine if the force used was reasonable if it was necessary, if it was appropriate and proportionate to the level of actions that were described,'' Luna said during a downtown Los Angeles news conference. 

Luna said he plans to consider what the deputies were told before they responded to the Antelope Valley store.

"If they got a call as this one that there was a robbery in progress, you can just imagine that mindset and the safety precautions they have to take to get there," Luna said Wednesday. "That is going to be evaluated."

He repeatedly declined to offer an opinion on whether the deputy's actions appeared to be appropriate or within department policy, insisting he did not “know the facts” and wanted to ensure the internal investigation is conducted fairly.

“It's disturbing," he said of the video, which shows a deputy with his arm around a woman's neck as he throws her to the ground. "There's no ifs and buts about it.”

Members of the Lancaster community have gathered at the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department press conference to call for the firing of the two LA County Sheriff's deputies who were shown in a video slamming a woman onto the ground. Alex Rozier reports for the NBC4 News on June 5, 2023.

Cell phone video of the June 24 altercation outside a WinCo store in the 700 block of West Avenue K-4 surfaced late Monday night. The sheriff's department responded by releasing deputy-worn body camera footage. Video shows two deputies at the scene, one of them detaining a man who Luna said matched the description of one of the suspects given by the caller. 

As deputies tried to detain the man and woman in the parking lot, the "encounter escalated into a use of force," according to the sheriff's department. Body-worn camera video showed deputies placing the man in handcuffs before they approach a woman who appeared to be recording the arrest on her phone.

"You can't touch me," the woman told the deputies as she was grabbed.

After she was thrown to the ground, the woman can be heard saying, "It's not a fight. You threw me down to the ground. Stop manhandling me."

The woman was then pepper-sprayed.

The man was arrested for resisting or delaying an officer, petty theft or attempted petty theft and interfering with a business, the sheriff said. The woman was treated at a hospital for abrasions to her arms and pain in her eyes due to being pepper sprayed. She was then arrested for assaulting an officer and battery after assaulting loss prevention personnel, according to Luna.

The relationship between the man and woman involved in the confrontation was unknown, despite some reports suggesting they were a married couple. But Luna said the pair went into the WinCo store together and were both involved in an altercation with store security. On the various videos of the incident, there are suggestions the woman has cancer.

WinCo Foods provided a statement Thursday.

“WinCo Foods cannot comment regarding ongoing police matters, except to say that we strive in every instance to provide a safe and secure shopping and work environment for our customers and employee owners," the statement from WinCo corporate offices said.

Community activists gathered Wednesday at the store. They claim the confrontation is reflective of violent behavior by deputies in the Lancaster area, where the sheriff's department is still operating under federal oversight due to a consent decree.

After speaking in the parking lot, protesters briefly entered the WinCo.

Luna, who said he just learned of the violent confrontation on Friday, said he has already reached out to the area's elected officials and community leaders.

“What we've directed our command staff to do is to organize a meeting with community stakeholders later on this week,” Luna said. “Those phone calls have already started. We're still trying to identify a location and work with others to put this (together) but it will give the community an opportunity and our community leaders out there to bring forward their concerns regarding this incident. And our full intent is to work with the community and based on some of the community outcry that I've heard. There has been some challenges out in that area.

“I always think we can do better, but again, I don't know all the facts and as we get them, we'll be sharing them with our community."

In addition to the sheriff's internal affairs investigation, probes are also likely to be conducted by the county Inspector General's office and the Department of Justice, which oversees sheriff's operations in the area due to the federal consent decree.

Luna asked anyone who witnessed the confrontation or who may have additional video to come forward. 

“We do take the use of force -- any use of force that occurs within our agency -- very seriously,” Luna said. “But again, we need to determine the actual facts of what happens and ... I'm going to make sure that it's a very objective review.”

He asked for "the community's patience to allow us to look at this objectively and (determine) exactly what happened.'' He said he was unclear how long the department's investigation might take, but he hoped it would be within 45 days.

The body-worn camera video is available here and here.


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