Tucson Police Chief: Video of Officer Shoving Woman Is "Disturbing"

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor says an internal-affairs investigation is under way after a video surfaced of a police officer apparently blindsiding a woman after the University of Arizona basketball game on Saturday.

"Any time you see a video like that, it's concerning, and it's disturbing," Villaseñor tells New Times.

See also:
-Tucson Police Arrest 15 After UA Game; Video Shows Woman Blindsided by Cop

Fifteen people were arrested Saturday night in the area of Main Gate Square -- a district with bars and restaurants that abuts the UA campus -- after UA lost to Wisconsin in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

What's gotten the most attention is the video of the police officer, dressed in riot gear, blindsiding a woman, whose body was thrown onto a bench.

"Often times [in the case of alleged police brutality videos,] there's other information that comes to light that you have to consider at well," Villaseñor says. "I'm not saying that exonerates him."

In the video, the woman and the officer only enter the frame within a second of the shoving, so it doesn't give the viewer doesn't know what was going on before that. However, based on her reaction, and the reaction of a man walking next to her, they were not expecting anything like that.

Villaseñor says the officer has already been interviewed, and added that 50 of the officers there had body-mounted cameras, so they're in the process of seeing if there's more to the incident.

According to Tucson PD, officers were trying to clear the streets after the game ended, but:

The majority of the crowd did not respond to the dispersal order and began throwing beer bottles, beer cans, and firecrackers at the officers. Several firecrackers rolled underneath a patrol vehicle deployed with the Mobile Field Force Units. As the crowd began to move closer to the officers, pepper ball rounds were used in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Several individuals continued to advance at the officers and were taken into custody.
Nine of the 15 people arrested are UA students, according to police.

In a statement, police also outlined the munitions used to combat the basketball fans: four foam baton rounds, two other non-lethal rounds, nine aerosol pepper-spray vapor canisters, and 200 pepper-spray rounds.

We asked Villaseñor if that seemed like a bit much. He replied that it's "really not a lot."

He says many more of these devices were used in the 1997 and 2001 Tucson riots, after UA basketball won the national championship, and lost the national championship, respectively. (Villaseñor's been with the department since 1980.)

Then, there was a lot of serious damage, including cars being overturned, fires being set, and things of the like.

Video footage of the 2001 riots:

In addition to the video of the officer shoving the woman, Villaseñor says there were two other internal-affairs complaints filed regarding Saturday night.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley