A police officer in Flagstaff, Ariz., has been placed on administrative leave after a video was posted to Facebook on Wednesday showing him punching a woman in the face, according to a police spokesman.
Police Sgt. Cory Runge said in a statement that the Flagstaff Police Department “became aware” of the video showing Officer Jeff Bonar striking a woman during an arrest about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, AZ Central reports.
“Our agency is very concerned by what is depicted in this video,” Runge said. “We are immediately initiating an internal investigation into this incident.”
The woman has been identified as 30-year-old Marissa Morris. She told the Arizona Daily Sun that she and her boyfriend had received an eviction notice and were in the process of moving out of their residence when police showed up to make sure they left.
“A cop, as soon as I walked out of the house, asked me what my name was and told me that he needed to talk to me,” Morris said. “I told him my name and he said, ‘You have a warrant.’”
What happened next was captured on cellphone video by Danny Paredes, who later uploaded the video to Facebook.
“I am as concerned with what is depicted in the video as I know many others are," said Police Chief Kevin Treadway at a Thursday-morning press conference. "I have heard your concerns, and the department is taking this incident very seriously.”
Treadway said that Bonar recognized Morris from an Oct. 18 case in which Morris had warrants for failing to appear in DUI drug cases in Flagstaff Justice Court and Flagstaff Municipal Court.
“In the video, Officer Bonar attempts to detain Marissa for the investigation of warrants that he believed were in place for her at that time,” Treadway said.
Bonar wrote in his report that Morris attempted to run away from him, so he grabbed her to prevent her from escaping. In the video, Morris can be heard screaming that she does not have any warrants, and the Police Department later found that the warrants against her were no longer valid.
“I did exactly what I was supposed to do to take care of my warrants previously,” Morris said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Bonar wrote in his report that Morris appeared to be intoxicated on a stimulant drug and “exerted an impressive amount of strength for a woman her size.” He also said that Morris physically attacked him, but Morris denies those claims.
“Marissa continued struggling and stuck me with her knee on my groin and legs several times,” Bonar said in his police report. “I grabbed Marissa’s neck applying little to no pressure and pushed her away from myself creating space. Marissa continued wrestling her hands away from us so I struck her in the face with a closed right fist several times as distraction blows, with very minimal force.”
Treadway said that an off-duty employee became aware of the video Wednesday evening and notified him; the department took action immediately.
“Officer Bonar was called into the department on [Wednesday] night, removed from his police powers and placed on administrative leave,” Treadway said.