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California officer captured on video punching handcuffed woman

The Westminster Police Department officer was placed on leave and is the subject of an internal investigation.

A California police officer was placed on paid leave and under internal investigation after he was captured on video punching a handcuffed woman in the face, the Westminster Police Department said.

The district attorney in Orange County will evaluate the officer’s use of force and determine whether criminal charges will be fired, the department said in a statement.

The Westminster Police Officers' Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The officer, who was not named by police, was one of three detaining Ciomara Garcia, 34, on Wednesday when she became combative, and he struck her twice, the department said.

Neighbor Sandy Armenta, who recorded the cellphone video, told NBC Los Angeles that Garcia somehow struck an officer in the lower thigh right before she was hit twice.

Still, Armenta said, she didn't understand why the suspect was struck when she was handcuffed.

"That's what people don't get," she told the station.

The two other officers intervened, with one pushing the officer who struck Garcia away from her, the video shows. It was unclear what transpired before the video starts. At the beginning of the clip, Garcia is sitting on a curb, handcuffed.

"Garcia was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation," the police department said. "No injuries were reported."

The confrontation began after officers responded to a report that Garcia had assaulted a woman who was trying to rescue a dog in the neighborhood. When the officers identified her, they found there was a warrant out for her arrest for alleged vandalism, the department said.

They detained her but believed she was under the influence of an unknown substance and called paramedics, the department said. The officer struck Garcia as paramedics were en route.

She was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery, being under the influence of a controlled but unnamed substance and resisting arrest, police said. Orange County jail records indicate she's being held in lieu of $30,000 bail.

It's not clear if Garcia has an attorney. The office of the Orange County Public Defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.