A widely circulated video of a flower vendor being wrestled to the ground and arrested in California has sparked outrage on social media.
Juanita Mendez-Medrano, 52, was selling flowers and leis outside a graduation ceremony at Perris High School on June 7 when she was approached by Perris police officers for selling without a permit.
In a statement by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department detailing the incident, officers “contacted, warned, and cited” other vendors at the event for not operating with a permit. When officers contacted Mendez-Medrano, the sheriff’s office claims that she resisted, and was then arrested.
A video posted on Twitter on June 7 shows part of the rough arrest. Mendez-Medrano can be seen struggling to pull away from a Perris officer who is holding her by the arm. The officer then grabbed her by the hair, forced her to the ground and partially sat on top of her to hold down Mendez-Medrano before handcuffing her. A second officer also appears to assist with the arrest.
The video has begun circulating on social media this week.
The video has gone viral on Twitter and news of the incident has spread, leading to angry comments on social media. An unofficial Facebook page for the Perris Police Department has received more than 70 1-star reviews, a sign of disapproval from Facebook commenters.
“This was not a representation of who the people of riverside county are,” a commenter named Felix Cortes wrote on the page.
“I’m absolutely disgusted to see a perris police officer treat a woman who is just trying to make a living like that,”another Twitter user wrote.
Other users think she should have followed orders.
“You follow directions and this will not happen,” a user named Jan West replied to a local CBS affiliate.
The police account is detailed in the statement.
“Unlike the other vendors, Ms. Mendez-Medrano refused to cooperate as necessary to allow our officer to issue her a citation,” the statement reads. “She refused to provide her name, and attempted to walk away. Our officer repeatedly told Ms. Mendez-Medrano why she was being detained, and that she could not go without being issued a citation. After giving several fake names, attempting to leave, and pushing the officer away, our officer attempted to arrest Ms. Mendez-Medrano for violating the city ordinance and obstructing justice.”
On Monday, in response to the video spreading across social media, the Riverside Sheriff’s Office said, “the video did not capture the other vendors cooperating with the citation process, nor did it capture our officer’s repeated efforts to convince Ms. Mendez-Medrano to do the same.”
Mendez-Medrano was booked at the Southwest Detention Center. According to Deputy Michael Vasquez of the Riverside Sheriff’s Office, she is no longer in their custody.
The incident comes after several years of heightened scrutiny of U.S. police departments. According to The Washington Post’s Fatal Force investigation, 543 people have been shot and killed by police in 2017. California accounted for 91 of those deaths.