SOUTH GATE — Sharply condemning the deputy U.S. marshal who destroyed the cell phone of a local woman taping a law enforcement action, U.S. Rep Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, is calling for a Justice Department investigation into the incident.
“As the congresswoman who represents the residents of South Gate, I was alarmed and upset by the actions of the law enforcement officer captured on the video,” she said in a statement. “My constituent Beatriz Paez was exercising her constitutional rights when she filmed what she saw in her neighborhood.”
The deputy marshal was part of a task force also including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A neighbor filmed his attack on the offending cell phone, which he angrily threw to the ground. That YouTube video is reported to have has been viewed more than 760,000 times since April 19, when the incident occurred.
“I condemn the actions of the U.S. marshal who violently and improperly responded by destroying Ms. Paez’s property, terrifying her and denying her rights,” Hahn said.
On Thursday, Hahn called for an investigation by the Justice Department “so the public can have confidence that the marshals will be held accountable, and I want all law enforcement officers to receive training and instructions to respect the rights of citizens to film police activity.
“We must hold all who are sworn to protect and serve accountable and send a clear message that they are not beyond the law,” she said.
Paez plans to file a lawsuit against the agent who grabbed her phone, the two who stood by and watched, and potentially the agencies involved in the operation, her attorney, Colleen Flynn, told the Los Angeles Times.
Paez said she was out walking April 19 when she noticed what looked like an arrest several houses up the street. She stood on the sidewalk, recording with her phone.
The woman said marshals asked her to stop recording but she told them she had a right to do so.
The second woman who was recording had focused on the interaction between Paez and the marshals, who Paez said told her to stop recording.
At one point on the video you can hear Paez say, “You’re making me feel unsafe. I have a right to be here.”
Paez said she was a few homes away from the center of the police activity.
In the video, an officer with a rifle walks in her direction.
“I was terrified. I was getting really scared,” she said.
As he gets close, the marshal then runs a few steps toward her and wrestles the phone from her hands.
Paez said he stomped on it then kicked it away. It is unclear what happened to the video she recorded.
The U.S. Marshals Service said it is reviewing the incident.