The family of a Black 16-year-old girl wants to know why she was arrested and held in police custody for nearly four days after two Rialto police officers violently threw her to the ground.
The teen was arrested Friday after police stopped her for riding an illegal motorized bike in a residential neighborhood at high speeds, Rialto Police Chief Mark Kling said. Police are investigating the arrest and apologized to the girl’s family.
A portion of her arrest was captured on video, which shows the officers grab on to her arms and then fling her to the ground.
“Go get my brother,” she yells to someone off camera.
She struggles on the ground, lifts her head and kicks her legs out. One of the officers shouts at her, “Did you just try to bite me?” He then appears to grab her neck. Another portion of the video shows an officer pushing her into the back of a police vehicle while she calls out to a man standing nearby.
Caree Harper, an attorney representing the family, said the teen’s father and grandfather arrived at the scene as she was being put into the police cruiser.
“They initially told her that they would release her to her father, and then based on some verbal exchange with the officers, he started to forcefully put her into custody,” Harper told The Times.
The girl, who is not being identified because she is a minor, said something to the officer that made them upset, Harper said.
“He arrested her to put her in an attitude check,” the attorney said.
She said the teen may have tried to bite the officer during the struggle because she feared for her life after she was thrown to the ground.
“She thought she was going to die,” Harper said. “You have two grown men throwing around a 90-pound girl. It’s their job to de-escalate those situations. These two officers are the adults in the room. It wasn’t a pretty moment to begin with, and then it turned into a nightmare.”
Harper said the teen heard something pop in her shoulder during the arrest and also suffered a concussion, but the extent of her injuries was not clear.
Kling, the police chief, requested an independent investigation from the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office and ordered an internal investigation into the actions of the officer who appeared to grab the girl’s neck.
“I have personally viewed officer body worn camera footage and although the video depicts the juvenile resisting officers, we are investigating the officer’s decision to trip the juvenile to the ground and later placing his hand on the juvenile’s throat during the arrest,” Kling said in a statement.
The officers’ names have not been released due to the pending investigations. The body-camera footage is now considered evidence as part of those investigations, a Rialto Police Department spokesperson said, and one of the officers has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Rialto Police Cpl. Nicholas Parcher said the teen was initially stopped by police for speeding on the pocket bike. During the stop, police said, she did not provide her name or age, so she could not be released with a citation to appear in juvenile court and was arrested instead.
She was booked Friday evening into juvenile detention on suspicion of resisting an officer by use of force and was released Tuesday.
“We apologize to the juvenile’s family regarding these unfortunate circumstances,” Kling said. “At a time when our police department strives to build community relationships, we certainly fell short in this encounter. We look forward to building rapport with this family now and in the future.”