A Southern California sheriff's deputy was captured on dashcam video repeatedly punching a suspected drunken driver during an arrest that the officer's bosses are defending.
Mohamed Sayem, 33, was parked in his Jeep outside the Corner Pocket Bar in Westminster, California, when Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies Michael Devitt and Eric Ota approached him in the early morning hours of Aug. 19, officials said.
The deputies were answering calls about Sayem being drunk behind the wheel, authorities said.
“Are you going to get out of the car?” Devitt can be heard asking the suspect.
“Don’t touch me like that?” Sayem said, slurring his words moments before it got physical.
The video, first made public on Thursday, then showed Devitt grabbing the seated Sayem, pulling him out and repeatedly punching the suspect before he fell to the asphalt. Some of the confrontation was obscured by the open driver side door.
When Sayem was cuffed on the ground, he said, “Are you going to shoot me?”
Sayem insists he's the victim of police brutality and excessive force.
“You blew it," Sayem’s defense lawyer, Scott Sanders, told NBC affiliate KNBC-TV. "You beat him up in a situation you didn’t need that level of force. The answer can’t be that Mr. Sayem pays the price."
Devitt claimed that Sayem was uncooperative and touched him first, leading to the necessary use of force, a department spokeswoman said Friday.
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said in a video posted on Twitter Friday, "I stand 100 percent behind my deputies."
While she argued that the video released by the public defender didn't tell the whole story, she said she reviewed footage from the entire hour-long stop. The deputies involved wrote "exactly what occurred in the video and what I personally saw" in their report, she said.
The sheriff' called the use of force "approrpiate" and concluded, "I am confident that anyone who sees all of the information will come to the same conclusion."
Sayem has pleaded not guilty to resisting arrest and public intoxication.
Both deputies are still on active duty.