At first glance, it looks like an everyday altercation outside a rowdy bar.
One moment, a Fort Collins police officer grabs the arms of a 22-year-old woman identified by police as Michaella Surat. But the next moment, as Surat appears to pull away, the officer uses the weight of his body to slam her to the sidewalk, where she lands headfirst with an audible smack.
A brief yet brutal nine-second video of the incident has been shared widely on social media since it appeared over the weekend. Fort Collins Police Services Chief John Hutto said the incident will be “thoroughly investigated,” but also noted that the video doesn’t capture “the context or content of the full event.”
“I understand and appreciate why this event has sparked so much interest,” Hutto said in a statement posted on the department’s Facebook page. “The incident was partially captured on cellphone video and was also documented on the body cameras worn by the officers on the scene.”
“Additionally, rarely in use-of-force situations is there agreement from all the parties involved as to the appropriateness, efficacy, or necessity of its use,” the statement adds. “These questions are only answered through the analysis of all the evidence after the fact.”
Sgt. Dean Cunningham, a Fort Collins Police Department spokesman, said police were dispatched to the scene to resolve a disturbance between two men near Bondi Beach Bar in Old Town Fort Collins. As officers were talking to employees, Surat — identified as one suspect’s girlfriend — “shoulder-checked” a bouncer and an officer before attempting to pull her boyfriend away from authorities, police said.
“The officers told her that her boyfriend was not free to leave but that she could go,” Cunningham said. “She remained at the scene, at which time she physically obstructed and struck an officer.”
At that point, Cunningham said, Surat was “taken to the ground” so that officers could arrest her. She was booked into the Larimer County Jail and charged with third-degree assault and obstructing a police officer. Surat bonded out of jail and is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
A bystander recorded a portion of the interaction between Surat and police and shared it online. In just over two days, the video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Instagram and Twitter.
Surat’s family told ABC news that Surat is a junior in college and a member of a sorority. Family members said being thrown to the ground left her with bruises and a chin contusion.
“We find the response attributed to law enforcement that this is standard procedure, if true, disturbing at best,” the family’s attorney said in a statement to ABC News.
Hutto said body camera footage from the scene would not be released until police have completed their investigation. At that point, he said, the footage will be made available to the public.
“I have no control over the video that is already in the public domain, but I do have control over the release of the video evidence from our body worn cameras,” his statement said. “This is an open investigation and to release evidence, absent a truly compelling reason, would not be proper. I am committed to preserving a process that ensures a fair and impartial outcome. I am equally committed to preserving the rights of both Ms. Surat and the involved officers.”