Westminster

Handcuffed Woman Punched in Face by Police Officer During Arrest, Fellow Officers Intervene

Two colleagues stepped in after a Westminster officer punched a handcuffed woman. The officer is now on paid administrative leave.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Video of a Westminster police officer striking a woman twice in the face while being arrested has been circulating on social media. Robert Kovacik reports for NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on April 22, 2021.

A Southern California police officer has been placed on paid administrative leave after striking a woman twice in the face while she was handcuffed during an arrest caught on video.

The cell phone video was captured on Locust Street Wednesday afternoon in the northern Orange County community of Westminster. The witness who recorded it said the woman, later identified as 34-year-old Ciomara Garcia, was already handcuffed.

"That's what people don't get, she was handcuffed," said Sandy Armenta. "Everyone knows her from the neighborhood."

Westminster police responded to the scene following a report that Garcia had allegedly assaulted another woman who was trying to rescue a dog running in the street. The police department said Garcia was handcuffed and showed signs of being under the influence.

Armenta said Garcia hit one of the officers in the lower thigh during the arrest and that is when the officer punched her in the face. Two other officers intervene to stop the situation.

The video does not show what happened before the struggle on the side of the street.

A statement by the Westminster Police Department reads: "While waiting for paramedics, Garcia was not compliant and she became combative with the officers. While trying to control Garcia, a WPD officer used force and struck Garcia two times in the face with his fist. Two WPD officers immediately intervened and deescalated the situation."

"After careful review of the video and based on the totality of the circumstances, a Westminster police officer was immediately placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation."

Armenta says it ended when the officers who intervened spoke to the officer who punched Garcia.

"They told him to scoot over there and he left the scene after that," added Armenta.

Garcia was not injured, according to police. She was arrested and booked into Orange County Jail on a prior felony vandalism charge. The Orange County District Attorney now must determine if Garcia should face a number of charges, including assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.

The DA must also determine if the officer's use of force should lead to criminal charges against him.