PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department has launched a criminal investigation into one of its officers after learning of a YouTube video that shows the on-duty officer slamming an unarmed 15-year-old girl into a wall and her slumping to the ground, a department spokesman said Thursday.
Patrick Larrison, a six-and-a-half-year veteran, was immediately placed on paid leave after another police employee found the video online and notified a supervisor, Sgt. Trent Crump said. The incident was videotaped Jan. 25 and the employee discovered it Tuesday.
"At face value, the video is concerning to us," Crump said.
Larrison's phone number was unlisted, and it's unclear whether he has a lawyer.
The three-minute video, which YouTube removed mid-Thursday, was shot by a citizen from across the street. It begins by showing the teen and her mother struggling with each other on the ground. The teen's mother is apparently trying to hold her down, but the girl eventually breaks free after punching the older woman.
At about the same time, a police vehicle pulls up and two officers get out. The video follows one of the officers as he approaches the teen from behind. She glances back at him, and that's when he runs up and slams her into the wall.
The girl slumps, and the officer puts handcuffs on her while she's on the ground. He then helps get her to her feet and walks her to the patrol car.
Many who watched the video posted comments on YouTube. Some described the incident as "brutal" and said the officer was out of line, while others defended the man, saying he acted appropriately given the situation and had to keep the girl from trying to run.
Crump said the girl's school had called her mother and police because she was drunk and passing alcohol to other students.
He said the girl was taken to the school's office and that she pushed a male teacher and stormed out, causing her mother to follow her and try to hold her down until police arrived.
The girl, who Crump said was uninjured, was charged in juvenile court with one count each of aggravated assault for pushing the teacher, domestic violence assault for punching her mother and threatening and intimidation for later telling the officers that she would kill them and their families.
If investigators find that the officer violated policy or broke the law, he could face a reprimand that varies from counseling to termination, Crump said.
Larrison has no previous complaints of excessive force.
Crump said he was surprised the department didn't learn of the video sooner and still has been unable to speak with the person who filmed it.
"Obviously we don't like that type of video out there," he said. "We don't want that to be our image within the community. ... We don't want people to see it and believe that is our normal course of business."
The department has drawn public scrutiny over a couple other incidents of alleged excessive use of force.
In March last year, Phoenix Councilman Michael Johnson was handcuffed and pushed to the ground during a pre-dawn fire in his south Phoenix neighborhood, prompting him to accuse the officer of assaulting him and violating his civil rights. The officer was not charged following an investigation by federal authorities.
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In October, Phoenix officer Richard Chrisman was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of an unarmed man and his dog. He was fired in March. Chrisman has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney has said Chrisman's actions were "more than justified."