San Diego police are facing some uncomfortable questions after video surfaced on Twitter that showed plainclothes officers and those dressed in military-style uniforms arresting a female protester and taking her away in an unmarked van while witnesses ask the officers to identify themselves.
In video posted to Twitter, the 45-second clip begins as the protester is being arrested and one of the woman's companions is kneeling on the ground with her hands up, arguing with officers about the woman's alleged offense. Then, officers can be seen picking up the protester and pushing her into an unmarked van.
At one point, one of the officers dressed in tactical gear and carrying what appears to be a rifle, warns the witnesses that if they follow them they "will get shot, you understand me?"
The witnesses can be heard protesting the officer's treatment of the woman being arrested. "What the f***? This is an unmarked car! Who is this? Who are you?"
The video was taken during a protest near San Diego High School in downtown San Diego last Thursday evening at around 9:20, as people marched against police brutality and the treatment of people of color following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In a statement, San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez called for an "immediate and thorough investigation" into the incident and for the officer who threatened to shoot unarmed protesters to be placed on leave.
"It is incredibly disturbing to hear police officers threaten people’s lives,” the statement from Gómez read.A spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department said that the protester was arrested after undercover officers witnessed her swing a cardboard sign at a passing motorcycle cop. The woman was arrested and loaded in the unmarked van for safety reasons, because of the crowd, San Diego police Lt. Shawn Takeuchi told the Los Angeles Times.
One of the detectives "witnessed a woman step off of the sidewalk into the roadway and swing a cardboard sign at a passing SDPD motorcycle officer,” Takeuchi said.
The 45-second clip only shows the arrest and does not show the woman's alleged offense.
“We understand the concerns when arrests are made by detectives who may not be easily identifiable,” Takeuchi said. “In this incident, the crime occurred in front of our detectives, and uniformed officers were not available.”
The detectives in the van choose to arrest the woman because they felt it was better than waiting for uniformed officers to arrive and risk losing her in the crowd of bystanders.
“The detective felt it was appropriate to effect an arrest based on the crime he saw,” Takeuchi said.
According to CBS 8, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit has ordered an internal investigation of the controversial arrest by San Diego police detectives.
"Yesterday afternoon, I directed the Internal Affairs unit to open an investigation into the arrest at 1400 Park Blvd," Nisleit said Saturday. "The investigation is already under way."