(Reuters) - Police body camera footage published online by a rights group on Thursday showed two California officers wrestling to the ground a black woman who was eight months pregnant, and arresting her following a dispute with another woman.
A national outcry over police violence against minorities, particularly black people, has been sparked off by several high-profile police killings of unarmed black men in cities like Ferguson, Missouri and New York over the past year.
The video dates from January and was published on YouTube by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
The woman’s arrest was wrongful, ACLU attorney Jessica Price told television news channel CNN.
“It’s pretty horrifying,” she added. “A lot of people are going to look at this and going to say there is some level of racial profiling and bias going on here.”
The clip shows police officers in the city of Barstow speaking to a white woman who accused the pregnant woman, Charlena Michelle Cooks, of having attacked her car after the two got into an argument over driving.
“I don’t see a crime that has been committed,” says one of the officers, before walking to Cooks, who said she was dropping off her daughter at school at the time of the incident.
In the video, Cooks denies the accusation, saying she and her daughter were the ones who felt threatened by the woman. The video then shows the officer ask for her name and she refuses.
Soon after, the video shows the two male officers wrestle the woman to the ground, as she screams that she is pregnant and pleading with them to let her go.
“Please, I’m pregnant!” she screamed several times and repeatedly asked the officers not to touch her.
Police in Barstow could not immediately be reached for comment, but a police official, Lieutenant Mike Hunter, told CNN the department had launched an internal probe into the incident.
“This incident was in no way racially motivated, as implied by the ACLU,” the city told CNN in a statement, defending the police action. The officer’s charge of resisting arrest against Cooks was dropped, it added.
Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Clarence Fernandez