WATCH: Ohio Cop Caught on Video Punching Handcuffed Woman in Face

Aug 13, 2016

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland woman punched in the face Thursday by a police officer suffers from mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, family members said.

Ciara Perez-Rodriguez, 21, suffered bruises and swelling on her face and arms in the altercation with police officers, according to her father, Louis Perez.

The altercation with an unnamed police officer during an arrest sweep on Cleveland’s West Side was caught on video and quickly garnered widespread attention.

Officials have not identified the police officer who punched Perez-Rodriguez as she was handcuffed against a police cruiser. Court records identify several Cleveland police officers involved in the arrest, but do not directly identify the officer who hit Perez-Rodriguez.

The incident happened about 1 p.m. Thursday in the 1300 block of West 80th Street. Perez-Rodriguez’s 14-year-old cousin, Andrew Perez, said he witnessed the incident.

Andrew Perez said he was with his grandmother when police descended on the neighborhood. The officers pointed guns at residents, including some children, he said.

Andrew Perez said his cousin told officers she didn’t want to give them her name. She walked away from the officers, who then arrested her, he said.

Perez-Rodriguez spit on the officer to try to stop him from arresting her, Andrew Perez said. He said the officer hit her, put her in a chokehold and dragged her to the ground.

An arrest affidavit says Perez-Rodriguez threw a Pepsi can at several police officers. The officers told her she was under arrest. She spit at two Cleveland police officers, court records say.

Officers wrote that she continued to fight with officers while being handcuffed and kicked one officer in the shin. She spit at another officer and kicked an officer twice, including once in the groin, according to court records.

She kicked another officer in the shin as she was being put into the police cruiser. The officer grabbed her arm, causing heavy bruising, according to court records.

“You can’t put that type of pressure on her,” Louis Perez said Saturday. “Because right away, she’ll lose control.”

Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis said Saturday in a text message that the video “clearly shows a defensive open hand to prevent her from spitting in someone’s face AGAIN.”

Loomis said four supervisors were on scene during the arrest. He said all paperwork and use of force reports were completed at the scene and injury forms were filed for the officers who were spit on.

Loomis said Perez-Rodriguez was originally arrested because she threw a Pepsi bottle from the crowd and hit a police cruiser as the officers were conducting their investigation into an arrest sweep of violent offenders that live in that neighborhood. Ten people were arrested, Loomis said.

“Despite what some may think or report it is not in our job description to be shot, stabbed, beat up, or spit on before we are legally able to defend ourselves and take action.”

Perez-Rodriguez appeared Saturday in Cleveland Municipal Court, where she is charged with felony assault of a police officer. Cleveland Municipal Judge Marilyn Casssidy set Perez-Rodriguez’s bond at $1,000.

Two others arrested during the sweep also made court appearances. Jorge Perez Montano, 19, is charged with carrying a concealed weapon. Court records say police arrested him with a .380-caliber handgun hidden in his fanny pack that also had crack cocaine in it.

A third man, Gary Morales, 22, is also charged with carrying a concealed weapon. Police reported Morales had a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun in a fanny pack under his shirt. Morales also had nine baggies of marijuana inside the pack, court records say.

The incident comes when Cleveland police are under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice meant to reform a department plagued with complaints about excessive use of force and how police officers handle residents suffering from mental illnesses.

A 2014 report from the Justice Department criticized the police department for, among other things, officers injuring citizens who were already handcuffed.

Cleveland police spokesman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia previously said officers were conducting a multi-agency operation. She did not give details or immediately return a call Saturday seeking comment.

Cleveland city spokesman Dan Ball said Friday he did not know if the officer who punched the woman is a Cleveland policeman.

“This has to stop,” Andrew Perez said.