“During the arrest the female, who appears somewhat uncooperative, was struck in the face by the officer,” police said in a news release. “Our agency is very concerned by what is depicted in this video.”
The officer was identified as Jeff Bonar.
According to the Arizona Daily Sun, the woman has been identified as 30-year-old Marissa Morris.
The video shows Bonar and Morris in a tense exchange, apparently about whether she can be taken into custody. Morris insists that she cannot be arrested until she knows that there is a warrant for her arrest.
That’s when Bonar punches Morris in the face.
“Hey! You can’t hit a girl like that!” a man protests after Morris’s head snaps back.
The struggle between the woman and the officer continues, as off-camera, people can be heard yelling in outrage. Another law enforcement officer helps restrain Morris, who cries out.
Off-camera, those watching the violent interaction plead with Morris, saying: “Just let him arrest you, just let him arrest you,” and, “Just let him.”
“I didn’t do anything!” Morris screams as the officers struggle to put her on the ground and handcuff her. “I didn’t do anything!”
Morris is eventually led off, shouting: “I don’t have a warrant! I don’t have a warrant!” Screaming, she continues to struggle as she is loaded in the back of a cruiser.
The video, which is about seven minutes long, had been viewed on Facebook more than 60,000 times by Thursday afternoon.
The incident occurred at a time of heightened tensions between members of law enforcement and the communities they serve, as many have found themselves questioning some tactics used by officers.
“I am as concerned with what is depicted in the video as I know many others are,” Flagstaff Police Chief Kevin Treadway told reporters at a news conference Thursday. “I have heard your concerns, and the department is taking this incident very seriously.”
Bonar was placed on administrative leave, Treadway said. Additionally, the chief said that he has asked another department to conduct a criminal investigation into Bonar’s actions. He said there are police reports on the incident, as well as body-camera video.
“So often in cases like these, there is a rush to judgment and a call for immediate action,” he said. “We owe Marissa, her family, the Flagstaff community, the officer and the department a full and complete investigation.”
A police report completed by Bonar indicated that he was kicked and kneed in the groin by Morris before the punch occurred, Treadway said. That doesn’t appear to be a detail that can be verified or disproved from the Facebook video, which doesn’t show the lower portion of Morris’s body.
Bonar, who has been with the department for just under three years, was at the scene Wednesday after he responded to a request from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, which was in the process of serving an eviction, Treadway said. According to his report, he recognized Morris and thought that she had some warrants.
After Morris had been detained, Treadway said, it was determined that the warrants were no longer valid. She was arrested and booked on charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest, according to a police spokesman. Morris was arraigned Thursday morning and later released.
“As your police chief, I would call to my community to have a little patience,” Treadway said. “We are taking this, again, very, very seriously. It will be a very in-depth investigation, but that takes just a little bit of time.”