Officials Clear Santa Ana School Cop of Excessive Force in Viral Video; Witnesses Claim Otherwise
Santa Ana School Police Chief Hector Rodriguez finished his investigation into the rough arrest of a 14-year-old at Adams Park that made national headlines earlier this month after an onlooker videotaped the incident. And, surprise, surprise: the top cop thinks his officer didn't do anything wrong.
Unnamed officer on top of unnamed kid at Adams Park
"Unfortunately we had a subject who was vandalizing property, who assaulted and resisted an officer," Chief Rodriguez told the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education. "Based on a thorough investigation that included reviewing the videotape filmed by a citizen and interviewing of witnesses and the parties involved, I have concluded that the actions taken by the officer in this incident were reasonable."
The full report itself (read it here) calls what happened "controlling force," copspeak for "We didn't kill the guy or break any bones, so shut up, cop-haters."
Elvia Fernandez, who filmed the encounter that day, was taken aback by the results of the investigation. "I'm speechless," she tells the Weekly. "I don't even have words to describe it. It's not fair...I didn't videotape him putting the kid on the ground as I was getting out of my car, but I saw everything."
"Why did the school cop throw the kid on the floor and start to choke him?" she added. "He was already red in the face. If we weren't there, maybe he would have passed out."
Chief Rodriguez's report to the SAUSD Board of Education doesn't reveal the identity of the school cop involved, but the kid told the Weekly that his badge name read "Harris." A Sgt. Brian Harris works for the Santa Ana School Police and heads up the Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership program known simply as "GRIP"--an irony if there ever was one given the nature of the restraint used!
As for the "Stop speaking Spanish" remark made by the officer at Adams Park? The report stated an "advancing male" spoke Spanish to the kid on the scene and could've been "planning an attack" against the officer who doesn't speak the habla. Only problem? The only "advancing male" on the scene, as shown by Fernandez's video, was Alex Sanchez...who spoke to the kid entirely in English.
"I didn't speak Spanish to anyone before, during, after, or at all that morning," Sanchez tells the Weekly.
When he gave an interview about the incident to a reporter with the Spanish-language Univisión, Sanchez did so in English, admitting that his command of Spanish is shaky at best. It was Fernandez who told the kid "No te muevas", "Relájate", and "Aquí estamos nosotros" before being admonished.
In fumbling such basic facts, Sanchez called the report "biased" and "incompetent." He pointed to the need for a parallel independent investigation, especially as the one conducted dismissed witness accounts, including his own, that the kid was choked.
With a one sentence write-off, Chief Rodriguez writes, "Witness statements claim the Sergeant was choking the subject. However, the video I reviewed does not support that claim." Man, this investigation makes T-Rack's crew over at the Orange County District Attorney's office look like the Hardy Boys!
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz