Video: Florida Police Officer Repeatedly Punches 14-Year-Old Girl During Arrest

Police in Florida have defended an officer who was captured on a cellphone repeatedly punching a 14-year-old girl in the side while she was pinned to the ground during an arrest last week.

Officials responded after a backlash erupted online, where the clip quickly gained thousands of views. "The officer's actions were 100 percent within policy, legal and were not excessive," said Deputy Chief Brad McKeone, of Coral Springs Police Department, CBS Miami reported.

Coral Springs police said the video "shows only the end of the story." A clip of the incident—which occurred at Coral Square Mall on October 18—was posted to Instagram. User Victoria Cedeno wrote: "My 14-year-old cousin, who is a girl, should not have been handled this way!"

The video spread to Facebook and Twitter, and criticism of the police department mounted. A copy of the footage, taken on a cellphone, was also shared with the Miami Herald.

But Coral Springs police rejected claims that they used excessive force, explaining last Friday that officers were called by mall security about "unruly" teenagers who were "causing a disturbance."

The police said in a statement that a mother reported her 5-year-old child had been "shoved to the ground" by one teenager. Mall security said that one teenager—allegedly the arrested female—was seen "striking another teen patron."

Police barred the teenagers from the mall, but they returned. The department said a male teenager had been taken into custody without incident.

Elaborating on the situation from the viral video, the Coral Springs Police Department said: "The female teen seen in the video, began cursing, attempting to incite the other teenagers. Officers attempted to take her into custody, at which time she began to fight and resist arrest.

"Due to her stature and aggressive behavior, officers took her to the ground attempting to get her to release her fists. As seen in the video, she resisted arrest, and in order to have her to comply she was struck in the side to release her clenched fists—she was then handcuffed.

"After she was handcuffed, and officers attempted to place her in the patrol car, she violently kicked one of the officers. She was transported to the police department."

(Warning—graphic language and violent content in video below)

Those commenting on the statement, which was titled "Rumor Control"—were not convinced.

"If you can't handle a 14-year-old unarmed girl then you need a new job," the top post read. Another stated: "There are more professional ways to gain control than punching a girl."

The 14-year-old's mother, identified as Jessica Dennis, said during a news conference that the officer had gone "completely overboard" during the arrest, CBS Miami reported.

According to CBS Miami, the arresting officer wrote in a police report after the incident that he had punched the girl three times in the rib cage. The teenager's hands were under her body and he was unsure if she had a weapon in her waistband, he said, according to CBS Miami.

McKeone, speaking to the media, called the punches a "distraction technique. I have seen it referred to as punches. I have seen it referred to as other terms. If he wanted to cause harm to her a punch would have been to the face, a punch would have been to the back of the head. It is not done as a punishment. It is done to get, again, compliance."

An attorney for the family, Meeghan Moldof, said: "I'm not going to comment on the criminal aspect of the case. But to say that the police officer was justified to punch her continuously while he has his knee on her back and her hands under her belly, it's speaks for itself."

Florida police denied allegations that the arrest had been overly aggressive. Its statement read: "Coral Springs Police Department believes in transparency. It is important for people to have all of the facts before rushing to judgment of an officer's actions when faced with calls for service involving violent suspects—regardless of their age or gender."

Video: Florida Police Officer Repeatedly Punches 14-Year-Old Girl During Arrest | U.S.