Police chief: Officer shoving woman is concerning

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azfamily.com

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 2 at 11:47 AM

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Tucson's police chief said Monday that he's concerned an officer shoved a woman during a melee that broke out after the University of Arizona basketball team lost in the NCAA tournament but that it's too soon to judge why it happened.

The unidentified woman has filed a complaint that is being investigated by internal affairs, Chief Roberto Villasenor said, adding "that kind of force being used" is worrisome.

The incident occurred Saturday night as fans took to the streets near campus after the game and hurled beer bottles and firecrackers at officers, who then used pepper spray to disperse the crowd. Police said 15 people were arrested, many of whom were university students.

A bystander's cellphone video shows an officer apparently shoving the woman who was walking by into a bench. But Villasenor said police will examine police lapel video and conduct interviews with the officer, the woman and possibly other people to learn more, including what happened prior to the pushing.

Though the cellphone video's view is partially obscured by a man standing in front of the camera, "I think without a doubt you can see an officer shoved the young lady," Villasenor said during a telephone interview. "There's no question the young lady was shoved."

Andrew Brown is the man in the video partially obsuring the action.  He told 3TV he was downtown to pick up his girlfriend when he ended up with a front row seat to the smack down.  Brown told 3TV the cop gave no warning before hitting the girl in the chest with his police baton.

 “The girl was hanging out in front of a shop just talking about how she wanted to get out of there,” said Brown, a professional videographer and photojournalist.  “She didn't really have any warning, at least as far as I could tell.  I never heard them say stop or back down; it just kind of happened.  It was just really shocking.”

After the hit Brown snapped a picture he says is the officer responsible.  The picture shows a police sergeant with the name tag “J. Mann.” 

"It was really troubling.  It was really disturbing to see," said Brown.  "I don't think that girl had any ill intent and was trying to get to her car.  It was a totally unnecessary violent event and it never should have happened."

Villasenor said the officer involved has been identified, but the name is thus far being withheld.

"It is premature to make any kind of judgment" before getting the officer's explanation and other information that will be part of the review, which could take up to a week, he said.

A woman who reportedly took the cellphone footage didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Police have said that nine of the 15 people arrested in the Saturday clash with police attend the University of Arizona.

University officials vowed to punish students who participated in the fracas.

Dean of Students Kendal Washington White called the disturbance disappointing and said it was not reflective of the culture of the University of Arizona or Tucson.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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