Last week, Eileen Aquino and her husband Chris Moreno were pulled over for a traffic stop in West Covina because their car didn't have license plates.
Aquino says they told one of the officers that they were from a car dealership and they hadn't received the plates yet and provided proper paperwork. She says at first the officer was polite but his attitude changed when he checked their identification and found out her husband was on probation.
The officer asked Moreno to get out of the car and he complied and was cuffed.
When the officer asked Aquino to exit the vehicle so he could search it, she started recording on her cell phone.
The officer got upset and asked for her phone.
The officer said that she can continue recording but needed to put the phone down for safety reasons so he could search the car.
Again, she refused. There's an argument, and the officer is heard cursing and can be seen leaning into the car and taking her phone by force.
Aquino told ABC7:
"He just started to try to tackle me for my phone. Eventually he got it, then he yanked me out of the car and cuffed me. We weren't under arrest, but I don't know why he cuffed me. But he cuffed me and while he was cuffing me and I looked to the left and I see the other officer hitting and kicking my husband,"
According to KTLA, in a Facebook post (which is no longer available), Aquino said:
"My dress came up to my back leaving my bottom completely exposed. I repeatedly asked him to pull my dress down or let me pull my dress down and he refused.”
She said that the other officer put her husband on the ground and kicked and punched him in the face. Moreno said he was "breathing and eating dirt" while he was on the ground, but that the other officer didn't care because he was on probation. He said the officer kept telling him to "shut up." He said the officer twisted his arm and kicked him. He has bruises on his ribs he said were a result of the encounter.
This was the WORSE most Traumatizing experience of my life. People don't deserve to get treated like this.”
Aquino says she and her husband were released without being cited, but they feel the officers abused their power and caused minor injures to both of them and they want people to know what happened.
Lt. Travis Tiebetts of the West Covina Police Department says it's OK to record videos of officers on a cellphone, but in this case, Aquino continued recording without getting out of the vehicle when directed.
The police department says a complaint was filed, so the the incident is under investigation.
In a statement, they said:
On April 12, 2018 at approximately 10:00 am West Covina Police Officers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by a male adult and occupied by a female adult passenger. The officer initially stopped the driver for driving a vehicle without license plates.
At some point during the stop the officer learned the male was a convicted arsonist, on probation and previously arrested for possession of a loaded firearm. The officer chose to investigate further by conducting a probation search of the vehicle.
The officer requested the female and male to exit the vehicle. The male initially complied but later became agitated. The female passenger delayed exiting the vehicle and was recording the incident with a cellular phone. For officer safety reasons, the officer asked the female to put down the phone and exit the vehicle. When she refused to comply a confrontation occurred between the female and the officer.
The officers detained both occupants in handcuffs and finished their investigation. Both occupants were not arrested and released at the scene. A written complaint has been filed with the police department, which is currently being investigated.
The female passenger has since posted allegations of misconduct on social media. To the best of our knowledge, the alleged misconduct was not recorded on her cellular phone. The West Covina Police Department is releasing the dash camera footage from the police car, which is not consistent with the female’s version of events.
Furthermore, the male driver is a convicted felon with previous convictions for battery on a police officer, arson and being a convicted felon in possession of a loaded firearm. "