The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office said a deputy was engaged in an incident of "unacceptable" use of force after video showed a deputy punching a mother holding an infant while the deputy attempted to arrest the woman.
The department released body camera video this week, nearly a full year after the incident occurred in Palmdale, California. Sheriff Robert Luna said he was not made aware of the video until last weekend when an area chief brought it to his attention.
"When I was elected as your sheriff, to keep our community safe, it was to bring new leadership and accountability to this department," Luna said. And that's exactly what we're doing. I want people to recognize that maybe in the past, maybe, maybe not something like this body-worn camera footage would not have been released to the community. And I want to stress that that is a commitment I've made."
Luna said on July 13, 2022, deputies pulled over a car after it was driving at night without its headlights on. The deputies reported smelling alcohol coming from the car.
Luna said that four females were in the car along with three infants. The infants, he said, were being held in the arms of their mothers and not in car seats.
Luna said the driver was arrested for allegedly driving without a license and under the influence of alcohol. The deputies also tried to arrest the women on charges of child endangerment. One of the mothers, while holding a three-week-old infant, was punched by the deputy twice in the face after refusing to let go of the child.
The incident, Luna said, was referred to the department's internal affairs. Luna said that the incident has been reported to the district attorney's office and the Federal Bureau of Investigations for criminal considerations.
"I found the punching of the woman in these circumstances completely unacceptable," Luna said. "While this incident occurred one year ago, before my term as sheriff began, I took swift action upon learning about this incident several days ago. I must note, and this is important, that state law precludes me from disclosing the disciplinary actions that I have taken in this matter."
Luna confirmed the deputy involved is no longer "in the field."
Luna, who assumed office in December, said he believes this is an "isolated incident that was committed by an individual that will be held accountable."
"We encounter some of the most difficult scenarios or situations and chaotic situations and they do really good work, and I'm gonna challenge anybody that this job is the most difficult in this country," Luna said.
The incident comes a week after Luna addressed another use of force incident by deputies over the July 4 weekend. He called the incident at a Lancaster, California, grocery store "disturbing."
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