(LOS ANGELES) — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a June 24 incident outside a WinCo Foods grocery store in Lancaster, California, where a sheriff’s deputy slammed a woman to the ground during a confrontation about an alleged robbery in progress.
The LASD said in a statement on Monday that they are releasing the body camera footage of the incident “in the interest of transparency” with the community.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has opened an investigation into this incident. While the Department does not make statements related to ongoing investigations, Sheriff Luna has made it clear that he expects Department personnel to treat all members of the public with dignity and respect, and that personnel who do not uphold our training standards will be held accountable,” the statement said.
According to the LASD, two deputies responded to the scene after a report of an in-progress robbery at the WinCo Foods store at the 700 block of West Avenue K-4 in Lancaster.
“Upon arrival, deputies approached a man and a woman, matching the description given by store security personnel in calls placed to 911,” the LASD said. “As deputies attempted to detain the individuals described by store security personnel, the encounter escalated into a use of force incident that was captured by a community member with a cell phone camera. The video is disturbing.”
The body camera video shows the two deputies approaching a man and a woman, who are both Black, outside the grocery store before the situation escalated.
“Why am I under arrest … for what?” the man asked.
“You are not under arrest, you are being detained,” the first deputy responded.
The other sheriff’s deputy is then seen approaching the woman, who appeared to be recording the deputies’ interaction with the man.
“You can’t touch me! You can’t touch me,” the woman said in the video.
“Get down on the ground. Get on the ground. Stop. Stop or you’re going to get punched in the face,” the sheriff’s deputy responded.
“STOP. If you touch me, you’re going to get sued,” the woman said.
The woman called out that she can’t breathe as the deputy appeared to place his knee near her neck.
“I can’t breathe,” she says at one point, followed by, “you threw me down to the ground.”
The deputy then appeared to pepper spray the woman.
The man can be heard telling deputies that the woman has cancer.
“She got cancer, man,” he said and then asked the woman to “relax” and “cooperate” with deputies.
The identities of the man and the woman, who were detained by police at the scene, have not been released by the sheriff’s office and ABC News’ attempts to independently verify their identities have not been successful.
The identities of the two sheriff’s deputies involved in the incident have also not been released, but Tom Yu, an attorney representing the deputies, told ABC affiliate in Los Angeles, KABC, that the deputies were responding to a robbery in progress and were attempting to detain the man and woman, who was recording the interaction.
“She was recording, but she’s involved in this robbery investigation so deputies have to pat her down; make sure she’s not armed, make sure she has no weapons, make sure people are safe,” Yu told KABC. “She failed to do that and then she begins to fight with deputies, so my client, as he’s trained, takes her down to the ground. It’s the safest way and the most tactful way to handcuff a suspect.”
ABC News reached out to Yu for further comment. WinCo Foods did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
The LASD said both deputies involved were reassigned from field duty pending an administrative review, which will determine “if the force used was reasonable, necessary, appropriate, and proportional to the level of actions described.”
Amid outrage following the release of the video, community members and advocates are set to hold a protest outside the WinCo grocery store in Lancaster on Wednesday evening organized by Cancel the Contract Antelope Valley – an advocate group that is calling on the city of Lancaster to cancel its contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and invest those funds into communities of color.
“As Black residents of this community we are tired of living in fear of the police,” co-founder of Cancel the Contract Waunette Cullors said in a statement.
ABC News’ Alex Stone contributed to this report.
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