California Police Department Defends Cop Who Beat Teen

Says the situation was 'hard on everyone'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2020 2:01 AM CDT
Updated Apr 30, 2020 6:33 AM CDT

A California police officer was caught on video severely beating a 14-year-old over an alleged tobacco purchase—and in response, the police department is defending the cop. As the Rancho Cordova Police Department explains in a statement, the Monday incident started when the officer was patrolling an area "due to complaints from citizens about hand-to-hand sales of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs to minors" when he saw the teen, Elijah Tufono, allegedly engage in a hand-to-hand exchange with an adult. The officer lost sight of the adult but confronted the boy, who was, according to the police department, "uncooperative" and "physically resistive."

  • The PD's defense: The department says "it’s important to put video footage into context." And of the officer's response, it says, "This type of situation is hard on everyone—the young man, who resisted arrest, and the officer, who would much rather have him cooperate." Tobacco was allegedly found on the teen, who was cited and released to his guardians.

  • Uproar: The incident has made waves, with former presidential candidates Julian Castro and Sen. Kamala Harris calling for the officer to be held accountable, Slate reports. Black Lives Matter Sacramento has also shared video (the teen involved is black), ABC 10 reports. "There is not one reason that validates a full size armed man, to sit on, punch, and try and break the arms of a child," reads the BLM Facebook post. "Watching him push his head on the curb by his neck was traumatizing."
  • Witness account: A friend of the teen, who filmed the incident, says the boy was not resisting arrest. "He was trying to ask why he was getting arrested, why are they putting handcuffs on him," the friend says. "And [the deputy] slammed him down and started punching on him and all that."
  • Teen speaks out: Tufono tells Fox 40 he did initially lie about his age (the PD says he claimed to be 18 at first, but he can later be heard in the video shouting that he's only 14 as the officer beats him) but says he did so out of fear because the officer was being "confrontational." He says he handed over the tobacco right away, and notes that the officer started handcuffing him without explaining why. "It could’ve been better on both of our parts in this situation," he says. "I did lie to him and I didn’t cooperate, and I know that and I made that mistake. But that didn’t give him no right to do what he did."
  • History of problems: The Sacramento Bee reports that nearby Sacramento has recently seen a number of police brutality incidents, including two that left black men dead, with the officers experiencing no consequences.
  • And problems with kids: The Guardian reports police officers in the Sacramento area have "over-policed" children of color two other times in the past year. The Sacramento PD is currently being sued over an officer's treatment of a 12-year-old black boy, and another Sacramento cop held three 13-year-olds at gunpoint.
  • "Common": "It’s common for them to terrorize our kids," BLM Sacramento Founder Tanya Faison says. "They intimidate our kids and humiliate our kids. They often detain us for something really small or nothing at all then they sit the kids on the curb for hours for all to see."
  • Investigation: The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office and Rancho Cordova Police Department are investigating the incident, though Slate thinks the PD's statement makes it clear no wrongdoing will be found on the part of the officer.
(Read more police brutality stories.)

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