A video posted to YouTube by the channel SLO County Observer has raised questions about the use of force by a San Luis Obispo police officer during an arrest over the weekend.
Police say the initial call was for reports of a man dancing and yelling in the road on the 800 Block of Froom Ranch Way this past Sunday.
The video shows three officers trying to take a man on the ground into custody. As they struggle, the officers tell him to let go of the handcuffs. One of the officers warns him he will be punched in the face if he doesn't let go. The officer can then be seen punching him while he was still on the ground.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the video has more than 17,000 views.
"I heard it over the scanner. It was a guy in the roadway presenting a traffic hazard and I wanted to document it," said Gabriel, the videographer behind the YouTube channel, SLO County Observer. He did not want to use his last name during our interview.
Gabriel says he is routinely present at local law enforcement incidents, taking video at the scene and uploading it to his YouTube channel.
As a firsthand witness of this recent incident, Gabriel says he thinks the officers used excessive force.
"It was unnecessary. It seemed unnecessary," he told KSBY. "I think with a little more patience from the officers, he wouldn't have had to elbow him in the head a bunch of times."
However, after viewing the video for himself, retired law enforcement officer and police training expert Paul Cappitelli says there are other factors at hand.
"What they were dealing with was a person who was actively resisting. They were trying to get the handcuffs on him and he continued to resist," Cappitelli noted.
He also says that during police training, cadets learn that whenever a person resists arrest and has an officer's handcuffs, the potential harm to officers becomes much more probable.
"The definition of excessive force is when force continues once a situation is under control," Cappitelli added. "What I see in this video is that once the suspect was in handcuffs, all of the force stopped."
He also says that key details are missing from the video uploaded by SLO County Observer, saying it is unclear what led up to multiple officers restraining the suspect since the video begins with him already on the ground.
"I started right there because that is when I could get the livestream going. I just pulled up to the scene right at that time," Gabriel said.
Cappitelli also says it would be beneficial to look into the histories of the officers involved to determine whether they had been involved in previous instances of excessive force.
The San Luis Obispo Police Department says the officers involved also wore body cameras at the time of the arrest and that footage will be reviewed during their internal investigation.
KSBY has submitted a Public Records Act request for the officers' body camera video and the officers' histories.
Police say the suspect was treated at the hospital and medically cleared before being booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail.
The officer involved in currently on leave while police conduct an investigation into the arrest and use of force.