Long Beach's deputy police chief on Thursday said the department's officers who were seen in cellphone video swinging batons into a crowd of people over the weekend did what was necessary and acted reasonably.
The video, captured on cellphone camera as bars on Pine Avenue were closing after 2 a.m. Sunday, shows at least one officer swinging a baton toward a group of people as another officer tries to push the crowd away.
Another cellphone video obtained by NBC4 shows an officer holding someone against a car and then on the ground.
The department has since launched an internal investigation, but Long Beach Deputy Chief Rich Rocchi told NBC4 on Thursday he believes his officers were doing what they needed to do.
"From what I see in the videos, it was reasonable and necessary to do what our officers did to defend themselves, protect the public, and (make) arrests," Rocchi said.
"We can use our batons in our policy to defend ourselves, to get people to comply with officers’ orders when we are outnumbered," he said.
Rocchi said three patrol officers were involved in the confrontation, which he said began when two officers witnessed a fight between two men.
"They approached, they saw the fight, they went to grab one of individuals to pull him off the fight, and during that, there was a struggle that occurred," Rocchi said.
"During that struggle, the crowd began to circle our officers," he said, adding that he was told the crowd was upward of 100 people.
As officers tried to arrest people, the crowd moved toward them, Rocchi said.
"This was a very volatile and very unpredictable and dangerous situation," Rocchi said.
The person who recorded the video of the baton use told NBC4 they saw four people arguing and cursing, but that nothing turned physical until after police arrived.
Police ended up arresting four people for charges including public intoxication, resisting arrest, battery of a police officer, possession of marijuana, and possession of open container.
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However those arrested claim they were given no warning before the officers started swinging.
"Next thing you know we're being swarmed by cops. I'm being held in chokehold, thrown down to floor... beaten with a baton," Ashleigh Sola, who was arrested, said.
"They hit Ash, so I'm trying to grab her (and) at the same time back her up," fellow arrestee Thomas Ramirez, said, "She's already taking swings. (I'm) trying to grab her back towards the end.... then they start hitting on me."
The department is asking the public for any other cellphone videos that were taken of the incident, and they are checking with nearby businesses for surveillance video.