A video emerged of a black woman on the ground being beaten by a white male police officer in North Carolina, authorities said Wednesday.
The incident, which was captured on bystander video, unfolded Monday afternoon as four officers appeared to hold the woman down as a fifth officer punched her multiple times.
She and another man were allegedly smoking marijuana in public when police approached them, authorities said. Police identified them as Anthony Lee, 37, and Christina Pierre, 24.
“I understand. I understand the outrage,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings told reporters. “I understand the emotions that come when you watch a video that involves an officer hitting a woman that we’re trying to arrest and subdue.”
Jennings said his department is going through the legal and administrative steps necessary to have body camera video released.
Pierre appeared to be surrounded and subdued by four officers when a fifth officer, identified as Vincent Pistone, could be seen entering the fray to repeatedly punch 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 9mm pistol. said the police.
“We have to look at when enough is enough,” Jennings said of the police force needed to make an arrest. “I can tell you that in the public opinion, absolutely, the public will say it was over the top, and I get that. I get that.”
Police said Pistone delivered “compliance strikes.” The action is “consistent with our training and is being done to achieve compliance and to prevent further assaults by non-compliant individuals,” authorities said at a news conference. He was placed on temporary duty and removed from patrol duties while the internal investigation continues.
“We have historically, not just in Charlotte but across the country, that this is the mistreatment of black and brown people across the country by the police,” Jennings said. “And that’s what people are looking at and raising concerns.”
The confrontation occurred as police were arresting Lee, who was accused of smoking marijuana in public, officials said.
Lee was charged with carrying a concealed firearm, resisting/delaying/obstructing and simple possession of marijuana, according to a police news release. Attorney information for Lee was not available. Pierre was charged with assault on an officer, resist/delay/obstruct and simple possession of marijuana. Her attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
A representative for Charlotte-based Bojangles confirmed the pair are employees of the fast-food company and both had gone off duty before police confronted them.
“Like many 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 about the use of force, Jennings also wondered aloud whether an arrest for using marijuana was even necessary.
The woman who was struck is 5-foot-1 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? It should never have happened. Should we have initiated an arrest for marijuana use even if we can? Should she have basically interfered with the arrest of Lord and beat our officers? None of that should have happened, and we’re looking at what might have been the outcome if one side or the other had done something different.”