Video emerged of a Black woman on the ground being punched by a white male police officer in North Carolina, authorities said Wednesday.
The incident, which was captured in bystander video, unfolded Monday afternoon as four officers appeared to hold down the woman as a fifth officer hit her several times.
She and another man were allegedly smoking marijuana in public when the police approached them, authorities said.
“I get it. I understand the outrage,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings told reporters. “I understand the emotions that come when you look at a video that involves an officer who is punching a female who we’re trying to make the arrest and subdue.”
The officers involved were not immediately identified, and Jennings said his department is going through the legal and administrative steps needed to get body camera video released.
The woman appeared to be surrounded and being subdued by four officers when a fifth officer, a white man with a cleanshaven head, could be seen entering the fray to repeatedly hit her.
She was hit seven times in the knees and 10 more times with a closed fist, and the man arrested with her was armed with a 9 mm handgun, police said.
“We have to take a close look at when is enough enough,” Jennings said of police force needed to make an arrest. “I can tell you that in the public’s opinion, absolutely, the public is going to say that was excessive, and I understand that. I get it.”
The officer has been removed from patrol duties as the internal investigation continues.
“We’ve seen historically, not just in Charlotte but across the country, it’s the mistreatment of Black and brown people throughout the country by police,” Jennings said. “And that’s what people look at and causes concern.”
The confrontation occurred as police were arresting a man with her, who was accused of smoking marijuana in public, officials said.
The man and the woman have not been named. But a representative for Charlotte-based Bojangles confirmed the pair are employed by the fast-food company and had both clocked off their shifts before police confronted them.
“Like many other Charlotteans, we were shocked and saddened by the video of an incident between Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and a Bojangles employee,” the company said in a statement. “They both remain employed by Bojangles at this time.”
In addition to questions over the use of force, Jennings also wondered out loud whether an arrest for marijuana use was even necessary.
The woman who was beaten is 5-feet-8 and 180 pounds, Jennings said.
“The optics are bad. I’ve said that from the beginning,” he said.
“No, it shouldn’t have happened. But whose responsibility is the question, right? That should have never happened. Should we have initiated an arrest for marijuana use, even though we can? Should she have basically interfered with the arrest of the gentleman and struck our officers? None of that should have happened, and we look at what could have been the outcome had one or the other side done something differently.”