The Flagstaff police chief said an officer caught on video punching a woman in the face reported that she kicked him and kneed him in the groin before he hit her.
The Flagstaff Police Department released body camera videos on Thursday. They show before and after the punch, but not the punch itself.
Officer Jeff Bonar was placed on administrative leave following the Wednesday incident.
Jimmy Sedillo said authorities were on scene at his Flagstaff residence, serving an eviction notice. He and his girlfriend, Marissa Morris, were moving their belongings across the street when at some point Bonar attempted to arrest Morris for a warrant.
[RAW VIDEO: Body camera of Ofc. Bonar arriving at the jail]
Sedillo said Morris tried to explain to the officer that there was some sort of mistake and refused to go with him until he showed her the warrant and said what it was in regards to.
"He literally tackled her in front of my mom's house," Sedillo said.
The scene was caught on cellphone video. The video shows the officer attempting to physically move Morris and she appears to resist until he strikes her in the face.
"She weighs maybe 110 pounds, maybe the officer was maybe 220," Sedillo said. "He went around the whole thing all wrong."
Flagstaff Police Chief Kevin Treadway addressed the incident in a press briefing Thursday morning. He said an off-duty employee was told about the video Wednesday evening and she contacted him.
"I am as concerned with what is depicted in the video as I know many others are," Treadway said. "I have heard your concerns and the department is taking this incident very seriously."
An internal investigation is underway.
"It is our intent to conduct a very detailed and a thorough investigation into this matter," Treadway said.
[Raw video: Flagstaff PD briefing on officer punching woman]
He also said he has asked the Northern Arizona University Police Department to conduct a separate independent criminal investigation into Bonar's actions.
Treadway explained that the Coconino County Sheriff's Office was serving an eviction and contacted the Flagstaff Police Department. After responding, Bonar recognized Morris and thought she had some warrants. Treadway said they were failure to appear warrants for DUI and resisting arrest charges.
Treadway said according to Bonar's report, he was aware that Morris had two warrants in place as of Oct. 18. When he saw her Wednesday, he initiated a detention to determine if they were still valid. After her arrest, it was determined the warrants had already been served and were no longer valid.
Treadway said Bonar completed a police report and indicated that he was kicked and kneed in the groin by Morris prior to striking her.
"I was not aggressive with him at all," Morris said Thursday afternoon.
She denied kicking the officer.
"I did not kick him," Morris said. "I did not put my hands on him in any harmful way. I just was trying to protect myself."
Morris was arrested for aggravated assault and resisting arrest after the incident.
She described Bonar as "aggressive, rude, totally and completely disrespectful."
Treadway said although there is often a rush to judgment and a call for immediate action in these sorts of cases, "We owe Marissa, her family, the Flagstaff community, the officer and the department a full and complete investigation."
Treadway said according to the Flagstaff Police Department's use of force policy, "in certain situations in order to defend themselves, officers can use a certain type of hand strike."
Treadway said there is body camera video, which will be released, and the public will be kept informed about the investigation.
"In the spirit of transparency, we are creating a stand-alone page attached to our Facebook where the original video and the additional videos, reports, media releases and applicable policies will be posted," Treadway said.
He said the page can be accessed at www.fpdtransparency.com.
"I certainly understand my community's frustration with what they saw posted on this video but, again, we intend to do a very thorough investigation and keep the community apprised," Treadway said.
Bonar has been with the department for almost three years. Treadway said at this point, he hasn't found that Bonar has any history of excessive force.
The Flagstaff Police Department released the following statement Wednesday night:
On 11-16-16, at approximately 7:30 PM, the Flagstaff Police Department became aware of a Facebook video post of a Flagstaff Police Officer involved in the arrest of an adult female earlier this afternoon. During the arrest the female, who appears somewhat uncooperative was struck in the face by the officer. Our agency is very concerned by what is depicted in this video. We are immediately initiating an internal investigation into this incident. Further details will be released as the investigation progresses.
Sgt. Cory C. Runge
Flagstaff Police Department
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