A San Jose police officer has been charged with misdemeanor assault and battery after he was caught on video this past summer kicking and dragging a woman he was arresting in a McDonald’s parking lot.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen on Tuesday filed charges against 39-year-old Matthew Rodriguez, an 11-year veteran of the force and a member of the San Jose Police Department’s Violent Crimes Enforcement Team.
The charges follow a tumultuous summer for the SJPD, which has faced backlash over the handling of the George Floyd protests.
Rosen’s announcement comes after a bystander captured a minute-long video of Rodriguez kicking a woman before he forced her to the ground and handcuffed her hands behind her back in late July. Once the woman—who was later identified as 39-year-old San Jose resident Guadalupe Esperanza Marin—was in handcuffs, Rodriguez drags her face-first by her arms across the ground.
compliant, yet he kicked her while she was on the ground and then continued to punch her and then DRAG HER???? THIS WAS AT MCDONALDS ON SANTA CLARA IN SAN JOSE!!!!! pic.twitter.com/F0kywklXK5
— Diannee 🌻 (@__dianeedun) July 23, 2020
At the time, SJPD spokesperson Sgt. Enrique Garcia told San Jose Inside officers had initiated a vehicle stop on East Santa Clara and North 27th streets on a car wanted for evading officers. “Officers used force during the arrest after the suspect failed to comply with their commands,” Garcia said.
Rodriguez was put on administrative leave after the incident went viral on Twitter.
A news release from the District Attorney’s office Tuesday said Rodriguez plans to self-surrender on his arrest warrant. If convicted, he would face a year in jail.
“Officers have a difficult job, but they also should be held to a high standard,” Rosen said in a prepared statement. “No officer should use more force than necessary to take a person into custody. 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. The SJPD detectives assigned to this case conducted a fair, thorough, and professional investigation involving one of their own officers.”
According to the police report, Rodriguez told the woman he was “going to kick [her] in the f*cking face.” Once Rodriguez dragged her across the ground he asked her “why [she] didn’t f*cking listen?”
Rosen’s announcement Tuesday notes that video evidence shows the woman was attempting to cooperate at the time. Rodriguez later told other officers that he had no intent to actually kick her in the face.
But in his police report, Rodriguez said he “didn’t like the position he was in and knew he had to move her as quick as possible,” as the woman did not comply with his commands. He worried when she moved her hands toward her waistband, although he did not remember seeing a weapon in her pants.
“[The woman] made Officer Rodriguez feel uncomfortable and he did not want to get hurt or his partner to get hurt,” the police report said. “Her non-compliance made him uncomfortable.”
Esperanza Marin, the woman in question, suffered contusions and lacerations to her face, stomach and legs.
San Jose Police Officers’ Association President Sgt. Paul Kelly rebuked Rosen for his decision in a statement to San Jose Inside.
“Virtually every felony car stop can be dangerous for the responding officer and they are trained to be at a heightened state of vigilance when making these stops and potential arrests,” the union leader said. “It is unfortunate and wrong that the district attorney is politicizing this incident by criminalizing the actions of our officer who was responding to a very stressful incident.”