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The Rancho Cordova Police Department have defended the use of excessive force by an officer caught on camera beating a 14-year-old Black boy.

On Tuesday, former presidential candidates Julián Castro and Sen. Kamala Harris brought attention to the video of Elijah Tufono’s beating over the underage purchase of a Swisher cigar, and the footage is beyond disturbing and horrifying (see below).

Sgt. Tess Deterding issued a statement on Tuesday defending the officer’s behavior and suggested the teenager deserved the assault.

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Meanwhile, Tufono is also telling his side of the story, which the says went down after he asked a stranger to buy some tobacco for him and Officer Brian Fowell allegedly saw the transaction.

“He’s on top of me and it looks like he’s about to hit me. Like, I’m reacting like any other normal human being would,” Tufono told Sacramento station KTXL. “It could’ve been better on both of our parts in this situation.”

He said he handed over the tobacco when the officer asked for it and admits he became confrontational out of fear.

“I did lie to him and I didn’t cooperate, and I know that and I made that mistake. But that didn’t give him no right [sic] to do what he did,” Tufono said. The video was shot by one of Tufono’s friends.

“I mean, I do forgive him. I have nothing against the cop. He was just doing his job, I guess,” he added. “Sir, I’m sorry for the way that I acted towards you and for not cooperating. And I just hope that we could meet again and be on better terms.”

The teen’s family is irate over how the officer handled the incident.

“It just kind of broke my heart. Anger and frustration went to sadness, especially the fact that he has a heart condition. And that’s the immediate thing that got to me,” said Tufono’s uncle, Justin. “I’m just so happy that he was able to come home alive.”

Here is a portion of the response from Sgt. Tess regarding the incident:

It’s important to put video footage into context, especially in relation to a use of force incident. In this case, the deputy saw what he believed to be a hand-to-hand exchange between an adult and juvenile. As the deputy turned around, he lost sight of the adult, who left the area. When the deputy approached the juvenile, the juvenile was uncooperative and refused to give the deputy basic identifying information. He told the deputy he was 18 years old. Having reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was occurring, the deputy attempted to detain the juvenile so he could conduct further investigation. The juvenile became physically resistive at that time, causing the deputy to lose control of his handcuffs, which landed several feet away. The deputy attempted to maintain control of the juvenile without his handcuffs and while alone waiting for his partners to arrive and assist him.

Ultimately, the deputy recovered tobacco products from the 14-year-old juvenile, which is presumably the reason for his resistance. The juvenile was cited and released to his guardians.

This type of situation is hard on everyone–the young man, who resisted arrest, and the officer, who would much rather have him cooperate. The community should know our deputies have a heart for the Rancho Cordova community, especially for the youth they serve through the schools, PAL sports, and our new Youth Center.

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