PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A cellphone video has surfaced showing a male police officer punching and dragging a woman, and the mayor has launched an investigation into it.
Mayor Jorge Elorza, a Democrat, said on Friday that after watching the video he directed the city’s police chief and its public safety commissioner to investigate what happened.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, also a Democrat, weighed in, calling the video “deeply disturbing.” She said she trusted that the city’s investigation will get to the bottom of it.
The police chief, Col. Hugh Clements Jr., said a preliminary review showed the officer’s use of force against the woman was justified but he’s looking into whether it was excessive. He said he became aware of the incident on Thursday after the video was obtained by media outlets.
Clements said the video shows police responding to a disturbance outside a Providence home in the early morning hours of May 23.
A police report taken shortly after the event describes a tense scene on the porch outside the home in the city’s Elmwood neighborhood and a struggle between police officers and combative people. A patrolman, Michael Place, was bitten in the leg and went to a hospital.
The report mentions that the officer pulled the woman off the stairs and dragged her because she was combative. It says the officer used “multiple strikes, wrestling and pressure points” to control her.
The officer can be heard on the video loudly swearing at the woman and saying she “bit through my skin, punched me in the head, and everyone’s recording me like I’m an animal.”
Clements said neither Place nor any of the other officers involved is being put on leave. In some other police departments around the country it’s common to put officers on leave during an investigation into the use of force.
The woman, Carolinmar Torres, was arrested and was charged with felony assault on a police officer and misdemeanors including resisting arrest.
Her case was referred to the public defender’s office, which said Friday it wasn’t representing her because she didn’t show up for a scheduled meeting with it. The office didn’t know if she had hired a private attorney. No telephone listing for her could be found.
The president of the Providence NAACP, which often comments on cases involving the police use of force, said he’s glad the city is investigating. President Jim Vincent said after watching the video it’s clear the woman was difficult to subdue but he found it hard to believe there wasn’t an alternative to punching her, clutching her hair and dragging her.
Vincent, Clements and Raimondo made their comments after gathering for an anti-violence event hastily arranged in response to Thursday night’s fatal shootings of five police officers in Dallas.
An Army veteran killed by Dallas police after the sniper slayings of the five officers during a protest march had told authorities he was upset about the police shootings of two black men earlier this week and wanted to exterminate whites, “especially white officers,” officials said Friday.