Video emerged of a Black woman on the ground being punched by a white male police officer in North Carolina, authorities said Wednesday.
The incident, which was captured in bystander video, unfolded Monday afternoon as four officers appeared to hold down the woman as a fifth officer hit her several times.
She and another man were allegedly smoking marijuana in public when the police approached them, authorities said. Police identified them as Anthony Lee, 37, and Christina Pierre, 24.
"I get it. I understand the outrage," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings told reporters. "I understand the emotions that come when you look at a video that involves an officer who is punching a female who we’re trying to make the arrest and subdue."
Jennings said his department is going through the legal and administrative steps needed to get body camera video released.
Pierre appeared to be surrounded and being subdued by four officers when a fifth officer, identified as Vincent Pistone, could be seen entering the fray to repeatedly hit her.
She was hit seven times in the knees and 10 more times with a closed fist, and the man arrested with her was armed with a 9 mm handgun, police said.
"We have to take a close look at when is enough enough," Jennings said of police force needed to make an arrest. "I can tell you that in the public's opinion, absolutely, the public is going to say that was excessive, and I understand that. I get it."
Police said Pistone delivered “compliance strikes.” The action is "consistent with our training and is done in order to gain compliance and to prevent further assault by non-compliant subject," authorities said at a news conference. He was placed on temporary assignment and removed from patrol duties as the internal investigation continues.
"We've seen historically, not just in Charlotte but across the country, it's the mistreatment of Black and brown people throughout the country by police," Jennings said. "And that's what people look at and causes concern."
The confrontation occurred as police were arresting Lee, who was accused of smoking marijuana in public, officials said.
Lee was charged with carrying a concealed firearm, resist/delay/obstruct, and simple possession of marijuana, according to a police news release. Attorney information for Lee was not available. Pierre was charged with assault on a government official, resist/delay/obstruct, and simple possession of marijuana. Her attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
A representative for Charlotte-based Bojangles confirmed the pair are employed by the fast-food company and had both clocked off their shifts before police confronted them.
“Like many other Charlotteans, we were shocked and saddened by the video of an incident between Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and a Bojangles employee," the company said in a statement. "They both remain employed by Bojangles at this time.”
In addition to questions over the use of force, Jennings also wondered out loud whether an arrest for marijuana use was even necessary.
The woman who was beaten is 5-feet-8 and 180 pounds, Jennings said.
"The optics are bad. I've said that from the beginning," he said.
"No, it shouldn't have happened. But whose responsibility is the question, right? That should have never happened. Should we have initiated an arrest for marijuana use, even though we can? Should she have basically interfered with the arrest of the gentleman and struck our officers? None of that should have happened, and we look at what could have been the outcome had one or the other side done something differently."