The family of a 16-year-old Southern California girl is demanding answers after video shows a police officer grabbing her by the neck during an arrest earlier this month.
At a news conference Monday, the girl’s parents said they are pursuing legal action in the altercation Feb. 11 in Rialto. A witness recorded video as officers attempted to take her into custody on suspicion of a motor vehicle code violation.
Rialto police issued a statement following the arrest. They said she was stopped for riding an illegal pocket bike at an unsafe speed near Linden and Pinedale avenues. A witness recorded a physical altercation and what police described as a brief snapshot of what happened when officers took the girl into custody.
“You throw a 16-year-old child to the ground and you’re a grown man,” said family attorney Career Harper. “She could have died, people.”
Harper said the girl landed on a shoulder that she had just had surgery on in November.
The family has filed a claim against the city and county, which is a precursor to a civil lawsuit.
"As a family, we are broken, it's broken,” said the girl’s mother, Lashay Grayes.
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During the arrest, one of the officer's can be heard asking, “Did you just try to bite me?”
The girl can be heard yelling, “Go get my brother."
Rialto Police Chief Mark Kling said in a Feb. 15 statement that he reviewed the officer’s body-worn camera video.
“Although the video depicts the juvenile resisting officers, we are investigating the officer’s decision to trip the juvenile to the ground and later placing his hand on the juvenile’s throat during the arrest,” Kling said.
Kling said he has request an independent review by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office of the officer’s use of force. An internal affairs investigation also will be conducted, he said.
The officer is on administrative leave.
The girl, identified by family members only as S.J., was released days later from a detention center and reunited with family members. Her parents said she suffered a concussion and emotional distress.
Kling's statement included an apology.
“We apologize to the juvenile’s family regarding these unfortunate circumstances,” Kling said. “At a time when our police department strives to build community relationships, we certainly fell short in this encounter. We look forward to building rapport with this family now and in the future.”