Police Officer Charged After Kicking and Dragging Handcuffed Woman

A California police officer has been charged over allegations he kicked a handcuffed woman in the stomach and dragged her across a McDonald's parking lot.

San Jose officer Matthew Rodriguez, 36, was charged with unlawful assault and battery under color of authority, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said.

The district attorney's office said Rodriguez is expected to self-surrender on the warrant. If convicted, he faces a year in jail, it added.

Rodriguez, who was assigned to San Jose Police Department's (SJPD) Violent Crimes Enforcement Team, was placed on administrative leave after the incident in the parking lot on E. Santa Clara Street and N. 27th Street in San Jose on July 22.

The encounter was filmed on officers' body-worn cameras and on a witness's cellphone, the district attorney's office said.

Warning: The below footage contains upsetting scenes and language which some people could find offensive

compliant, yet he kicked her while she was on the ground and then continued to punch her and then DRAG HER???? THIS WAS AT MCDONALDS ON SANTA CLARA IN SAN JOSE!!!!! pic.twitter.com/F0kywklXK5

— Diannee 🌻 (@__dianeedun) July 23, 2020

In a news release, the district attorney's office said Rodriguez and his partner had reported locating a car that was wanted in connection to two separate reports of people evading police. That includes one incident reported earlier that day when a male driver was behind the wheel, the release said.

The officers drove up behind the vehicle while it was being driven by a 39-year-old woman. A female friend was in the front passenger seat, while two children—aged three and seven—were in the back seat.

With his gun drawn, Rodriguez ordered the woman out of the car, the district attorney's office said.

"The woman complied and got down on the ground when ordered by the officer," according to the news release. "After telling the woman, 'I'm going to kick you in the (expletive) face,' the officer kicked the woman in the stomach. He then dragged her for several feet away from the car by her handcuffs."

Rodriguez later reported that the woman was not complying with his commands, but his account was contradicted by video footage which showed "the victim trying to comply with the commands," the district attorney's office said.

It added that the woman suffered bruises and cuts to her face, stomach and legs.

The officers' body camera footage was not released, but the incident was captured on camera by a DoorDash delivery worker who started filming after he saw the commotion while going to pick up an order, according to CBS San Francisco.

That video shows the officer kicking a woman in the stomach while she is on her knees moments after ordering her out of her vehicle, the station reported. He is then seen tackling the woman as his partner points a gun at her.

A video that circulated on social media showed the female passenger yelling that they had "just bought the car."

The driver, who was not identified, was booked into Santa Clara County Jail for driving on a suspended license, possession of paraphernalia, and resisting arrest and later released. The district attorney's office said it declined to file charges against her after a review of the case.

In a statement, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said: "Officers have a difficult job, but they also should be held to a high standard. No officer should use more force than necessary to take a person into custody.

"When they do, they not only commit a crime, they weaken the bonds of trust with the community that so many excellent police officers have worked their entire careers to build."

He added that the SJPD detectives assigned to the case "conducted a fair, thorough, and professional investigation involving one of their own officers."

Protest
Protesters march holding placards and a portrait of George Floyd during a demonstration against racism and police brutality, in Hollywood, California on June 7, 2020. Agustin Paullier/AFP via Getty Images

In a statement, San Jose police Chief Edgardo Garcia said that "these types of investigations are deeply disappointing but are necessary."

He added: "Every day hundreds of San Jose officers patrol our city and encounter similarly challenging circumstances and navigate them appropriately.

"We completed a thorough investigation and sent our findings to the district attorney for review where a filing decision was made." The department has been contacted for additional comment.

The charge against Rodriguez comes amid ongoing protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the U.S., sparked by police violence against Black people.

According to The Mercury News, the SJPD is facing ongoing scrutiny over use of force and misconduct allegations involving its officers.

Both the city's mayor, Sam Liccardo, and Santa Clara County Public Defender Molly O'Neal have expressed their support for redirecting police misconduct investigations out of the department's internal affairs unit and into the purview of the Office of the Independent Police Auditor.

Moore noted that the charge against Rodriguez would not have come without the outcry from the community sparked by the witness video.

"We all know this wouldn't have happened if the citizen's video wasn't out there," he said, according to the newspaper. "The community has to continue to be vigilant."