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ACLU calls for probe of pursuit arrest

May 14, 2009 7:20:50 AM PDT
The ACLU is calling for an immediate investigation into several El Monte police officers, saying they used excessive force by kicking and punching a suspect as he was arrested on Wednesday.The incident began with an afternoon high-speed pursuit that lasted about 30 minutes. The driver, identified as 23-year-old Richard Rodriguez of El Monte, led police through several neighborhoods, driving at times on the wrong side of the road and even on the sidewalk.

Police said Rodriguez is a gang member on parole.

When Rodriguez crashed into another vehicle on Whittier Boulevard, he jumped out and ran.

Rodriguez finally surrendered in the backyard of a residence and was arrested and booked for a parole violation and for evading police. Two men who were passengers in his car were also arrested.

As news helicopters were filming the arrest, an officer was seen appearing to hit the suspect with a flashlight or baton as he lay face down on the grass. Moments earlier, another officer allegedly kicked the suspect in the head.

"This video is truly chilling in the clarity with which it captures an egregious example of police abuse," said ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston in a statement.

After the suspect was handcuffed, the officer who allegedly kicked the suspect was seen "high-fiving" another officer.

"I understand, OK, he committed a crime, but there's no need to abuse him like that," said Monique Martinez, the suspect's cousin.

"He was already surrendered. You guys [saw] on the video, his hands were already down," she said.

Police officials in El Monte said they have started an internal investigation into the officers' actions.

"Viewing this video, I comprehend their level of concern, and we're going to look into it, but let's wait until the facts are all gathered before we come to a final conclusion on this matter," said Chief Tom Armstrong, El Monte Police Department.

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