iStock/Thinkstock(READING, Pa.) — A police officer in Pennsylvania has been criminally charged after he was caught on video appearing to punch a woman during a traffic stop last month.
The incident happened this past April 5, when Officer Jesus Santiago-DeJesus with the Reading Police Department pulled over Marcelina Cintron-Garcia, after he “falsely implicated” that she “did not use a proper right turn signal when pulling into a parking space,” according to a news release on Wednesday from the Berks County District Attorney’s Office.
Cintron-Garcia’s car’s front lights did have the right turn signal on at the time, according to surveillance video from the incident obtained by ABC News Thursday.
After Cintron-Garcia and her boyfriend, Joel Rodriguez — who was in the passenger seat of her car — exited the vehicle, they both “began to video record Officer Santiago-DeJesus with their cellular telephones,” the DA’s office said. A “verbal disagreement” over the traffic stop soon “became argumentative.”
The officer ordered Cintron-Garcia to hand over her cell phone, but she refused, according to the DA’s office. Santiago-DeJesus later “forcibly wrestled” Clinton-Garcia’s cellphone from her hand and “slammed it down on the sidewalk,” the DA’s office said.
The officer then, on surveillance video, appears to punch Clinton-Garcia before arresting her and her boyfriend.
Cintron-Garcia was later “transported to the Reading Hospital for treatment for injuries she sustained during the arrest,” the DA’s office said.
Though Cintron-Garcia and Rodriquez both faced multiple charges after the arrest, all charges against them have since been withdrawn by the DA’s office, it said.
“This interaction between police and citizen was escalated by the police behavior,” said Berks County District Attorney John Adams at a news conference on Wednesday.
Detectives with the DA’s office have now charged Santiago-DeJesus with official oppression, criminal mischief, criminal attempt to tamper with or fabricate physical evidence, false reports to law enforcement authorities and unsworn falsification to authorities, according to the DA’s office and online court records for Berks County.
Santiago-DeJesus, a four-year veteran of the Reading Police Department, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an independent internal department investigation, a police spokesman told ABC News Thursday.
Santiago-DeJesus’ attorney, Allan Sodomsky, told ABC News Thursday that his client turned himself in Thursday for booking, and he was released on unsecured bail. The lawyer added that Santiago-DeJesus has not yet entered a plea to the charges against him.
“We have fully complied with the DA’s office since they began their investigation into this incident,” Sodomsky said. “Until we see all the evidence the DA’s office has, we believe that Officer Santiago was not the one who escalated the incident.”
Sodomsky claimed the DA’s office has five surveillance videos of the incident but that it “only publicly released one of the videos best supporting their argument.”
“That video they showed only shows the vehicle from the front,” he said. “You can’t see the turn signal from behind, which is what Officer would have been looking at. We don’t know if that back light was out, broken or if there was even a light there. We never get his vantage point.”
Sodomsky added that “nothing has been shown yet showing how Officer Santiago received an injury he got to the face” during the arrest.
“This woman hit him,” he said. “Officer Santiago responded to get the situation under control by striking the individual that hit him. There’s been press about the punch thrown by Santiago, but how come we aren’t seeing anything of her hitting him? And it’s of note because the DA’s office did not accuse or charge him with assault, meaning they acknowledged he was responding appropriately.”
The DA’s office did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for additional comment, and ABC News was not immediately successful in reaching Cintron-Garcia and Rodriquez for comment.
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