Violent arrest in Whittier raising questions about LASD deputy's use of force

Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Violent arrest in Whittier raising questions about use of force
Emmett Brock's attorney says his client was pulled over and then wrestled to the ground after he flipped off the deputy.

WHITTIER, Calif. (KABC) -- Troubling video of a violent traffic arrest in Whittier is raising questions about whether a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputy went too far in making an arrest.

Emmett Brock's attorney says his client was pulled over and then wrestled to the ground after he flipped off the deputy. The deputy later reported the initial traffic stop was made because of an air freshener hanging from the mirror that was obstructing his view.

Video that is part of the use-of-force investigation shows the 23-year-old transgender man pulling into the parking lot of a 7-Eleven in Whittier with the deputy pulling up behind him.

After he gets out of his vehicle, the deputy wrestles Brock to the ground, and Brock can be heard screaming "help" and "you're gonna kill me."

"The deputy immediately approached him at the door of his car and said, 'I stopped you' and the young man said to him, 'No you didn't, get your hands off me' and it immediately escalates the level of force," said Brock's attorney, Thomas Beck. "He does a takedown, lands on top of him and then you can see him raining punches into the kid's head."

The incident happened on Feb. 10. According to his attorney, Brock was driving home from work when he saw the deputy on the side of the road having a heated discussion with a woman.

"He saw that the woman was in distress so when he drove by he flipped him off," Beck said. "And left it at that. Kept going."

Beck says the deputy started following Brock's car, but did not turn on any equipment or attempt to pull him over.

While on the ground, Brock can be heard yelling and screaming.

The deputy later stated in his report that he stopped Brock because he spotted an air freshener hanging from Brock's rearview mirror, obstructing his view.

Brock was arrested and charged with three felonies.

"He just decided to beat the tar out of this kid because he flipped him off," Beck said. "It's as simple as that."

The deputy in the video has been identified as Joseph Benza.

Benza's attorney told Eyewitness News his client was trying to take control of the situation when it appeared Brock was trying to walk away from the traffic stop.

"A traffic stop is inherently dangerous," attorney Tom Yu said. "It evolves very fast, very rapidly. You don't know if a person is armed. So my client immediately took control of that situation in an attempt to stop Mr. Brock from walking away from that traffic stop."

Yu also said that Brock bit the deputy during the struggle. Brock's attorney denies that allegation.

A report from the Los Angeles Times indicates Brock underwent additional questionable treatment when he was booked at the Los Angeles County jail that day.

He was questioned about his gender and when he explained that he is a transgender man, he had to explain how the surgeries worked and what hormones he was taking. Finally the jailer asked him to show his genitals to prove his transgender status.

Still he was placed in a woman's holding cell.

Los Angeles County jail records reviewed by Eyewitness News indicate Brock was booked as a female.

Brock also lost his job as a high-school teacher when the state notified the school district of the charges, the Times reported.

Retired law enforcement expert Bruce Thomas says the video of the arrest is disturbing.

"Escalates it from nothing to a wrestling match on the ground, to punches, kicks," Thomas told Eyewitness News. "It's just very, very confusing to me as someone has investigated hundreds of uses of force."

In a statement the sheriff's department says, "The department is investigating the information and allegations brought forward by Mr. Brock and his attorney. Unfortunately, we cannot comment any further at this time due to the pending litigation in this matter."

Brock was treated for a concussion and other injuries and still faces charges in connection with the incident.