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San Jose officer facing assault charge in violent arrest of driver

Video contradicted the officer's claim that the driver resisted commands, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said.

A San Jose, California, police officer is facing an assault charge stemming from a incident in July in which he was seen on video beating a woman after he ordered her out of her car, prosecutors said.

The officer, Matthew Rodriguez, 36, was charged with unlawful assault and battery under color of authority, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said Tuesday. Rodriguez was seen on cellphone and body camera video dragging and kicking a female driver during the stop in July, according to the DA.

Rodriguez and another officer stopped the woman, Esperanza Marin, in a McDonald's parking lot over suspicion that the car's driver was wanted for evading police twice before, police said at the time. She was in the car with two young children and a female friend, who was not named.

Police said the officers used force after the driver "failed to comply with their commands."

The video, however, contradicted that claim, according to the district attorney's office. Marin had gotten out of the vehicle and was on the ground as commanded when Rodriguez is alleged to have told her that he would kick her in the face, the district attorney's office said.

Rodriguez is alleged to have kicked Marin in the stomach and dragged her several feet from the car by her handcuffs, according to the office. Marin was then arrested on suspicion of driving on a suspended license, possession of paraphernalia and resisting arrest, but the district attorney's office declined to file charges.

It was not immediately clear whether Rodriguez had retained an attorney. The San Jose Police Officers' Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.

Rodriguez was placed on paid leave in July while the incident was investigated, NBC Bay Area reported after cellphone video surfaced at the time. Police Chief Edgardo Garcia said in a statement Tuesday that such investigations are "deeply disappointing but are necessary."

"Every day hundreds of San Jose Officers patrol our city and encounter similarly challenging circumstances and navigate them appropriately," Garcia said. "We completed a thorough investigation and sent our findings to the District Attorney for review where a filing decision was made."

A police spokesperson said it unclear whether police would release the body camera video.

Officers must be held to a high standard and should not use more force than necessary to bring in suspects, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in his statement Tuesday.

"When they do, they not only commit a crime, they weaken the bonds of trust with the community that so many excellent police officers have worked their entire careers to build," Rosen said. "The SJPD detectives assigned to this case conducted a fair, thorough and professional investigation involving one of their own officers."

The district attorney's office said Rodriguez would be surrendering himself on a warrant, but the timing of his surrender was unclear. Santa Clara County Jail records were not available for him Tuesday evening.

Rodriguez faces a year in jail if he is convicted on the misdemeanor charge.

Caitlin Fichtel contributed.