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L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Punched Young Mother Holding Three-Week-Old Baby Twice In The Face During Arrest

A Los Angeles sheriff's deputy punched a young mother “twice in the face” as she held onto a three-week-old infant in her arms during an arrest in Palmdale a year ago. Video of the incident is now circulating online.

11:41 AM PDT on July 13, 2023

A Los Angeles sheriff's deputy punched a young mother “twice in the face” as she held onto a three-week-old infant during an arrest in Palmdale one year ago, Sheriff Robert Luna revealed in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

The mother was riding in a car with four other passengers. which was stopped for driving at night without their headlights on.

Deputies reportedly smelled "an odor of alcohol coming from the car" after they pulled the male driver over and observed three women holding babies, without car seats.

The deputies made the "discretionary decision" to arrest the women and male driver for "felony child endangerment," according to Sheriff Luna. The driver was also arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence with a suspended license.

Body-camera footage released on Wednesday afternoon shows a mother holding a baby in her arms, surrounded by sheriff’s deputies, while sitting cross-legged on the pavement. For several minutes deputies try to get the woman to hand her baby over to them while the mother pleads for them to let her go.

Six minutes into the footage, deputies violently struggle to grab the woman’s baby from her arms while the woman lets out gut-wrenching screams and desperately tries to hold onto her baby. The baby starts crying as a deputy pries the woman’s hands away from the infant.

”No, no, no please… please, please, please,” the woman says after her baby is taken away from her and she’s detained.

Afterwards, deputies approach another woman holding a three-week-old baby.

“Y’all gunna have to shoot me dead to take my [expletive] baby from my arms,” the woman says before deputies surround her. As deputies wrestle the three-week-old away from its mother, she shouts “you’re breaking his legs.”

Moments later, a deputy throws two overhand punches at the woman. According to Sheriff Luna, the deputy's fist made contact with the woman’s face.

Luna described the assault as “completely unacceptable” during Wednesday's press conference. Upon recently learning about the incident, the sheriff said he has asked the department’s "professional standards division" to refer the case to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office for possible criminal charges.

"The Los Angeles FBI office will also be looking into this matter," Luna said.

Luna said that state laws preclude him from identifying, by name, the deputy who punched the young mother in the face during Wednesday's press conference, but confirmed that the deputy is "not in the field."

Luna became aware of the incident "over the weekend" after an area chief who was "extremely concerned about what he had seen on body-worn camera" brought it to his attention.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger described the body-worn camera footage as "gut wrenching” in a statement.

"Transparency and accountability starts at the top," Barger said. "I want to commend Sheriff Luna for bringing this incident to light. Although this incident is over a year old, Sheriff Luna moved forward to share the video footage with the community as soon as he learned about it."

Barger concluded by reaffirming her support for law enforcement.

"Lastly, to the law enforcement community who will also see this video today and whose work will be judged harshly in the court of public opinion, I want you to know that I value your work," she said.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called the body-worn footage “enraging and disturbing.”

“The idea that you would assault a mother with a child in her arms and then subject that child to the child welfare system just because the child didn’t have a car seat is an abuse of power," Bass said in a statement. "When a child goes into the child welfare system, it can take months for that child to be returned. That process can result in lifelong trauma for both the mother and the child."

On Wednesday afternoon, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hanh called on Sheriff Luna to fire the deputy who punched the young mother.

"This violence in this video is appalling, and there is no justification," Hahn said in a statement. "This deputy does not belong in our Sheriff’s Department. I trust that the Sheriff will act quickly to discharge him, and I agree with his decision to refer this case to the District Attorney for criminal prosecution. I appreciate Sheriff Luna for being transparent with the public and bringing this footage forward, but this video is nearly a year old and should have been released immediately by the prior Sheriff. I championed our body worn camera program but it only works if footage of incidents like this are brought to light."

On Wednesday evening, former L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva responded to Supervisor Hahn.

@JaniceHahn you have a lot of nerve," he wrote. "The incident was recorded on my body worn cameras you fought to delay, remember? An investigation was launched when it happened, and @LACoSheriffLuna is once again removing all context to portray himself as a hero. #FactsMatter.

“The mother, along with two other mothers, were holding infants in a car being driven by a drunk driver, with no car seats," Villanueva tweeted. "Definitely felony child endangerment, but that’s why we do thorough investigations before making decisions."

Villanueva did not explain why he withheld the body-worn camera footage nor why he didn’t publicly acknowledge the incident. 

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