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California police officer charged with assaulting a teenager during a traffic stop

<i>Wesley Ouchi</i><br/>Photos of Anthony Romero's injury as well as of the alleged shoeprints that were provided by his attorney.
Wesley Ouchi
Photos of Anthony Romero's injury as well as of the alleged shoeprints that were provided by his attorney.

By Alexandra Meeks, CNN

A Los Angeles County police officer has been charged in connection with the arrest of a 16-year-old male he allegedly kicked after the teen had surrendered and was lying face down on the ground, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Wednesday.

Former Baldwin Park police officer Ryan Felton, 35, was charged with two felony counts of assault and was taken into custody after a warrant was issued for his arrest, the district attorney’s office said in a statement. Felton pleaded not guilty to the charges.

CNN has reached out to Felton’s attorney, Joshua Visco, for comment but has not yet gotten a response.

Attorneys for the teen, identified by those lawyers as Anthony Romero, filed a lawsuit September 10 against the city of Baldwin Park, Felton, a police sergeant and other officers with the department. The suit seeks a jury trial and general and punitive damages for Romero.

Baldwin Park is a city of about 75,000 people in Los Angeles County.

According to the lawsuit, on September 22, 2019, Felton assisted another officer in pulling over a vehicle in Baldwin Park after the driver allegedly failed to yield during a traffic stop. Romero, then 16 years old, was a passenger in the vehicle. He exited the car and began running out of fear after he saw officer Felton pointing his firearm through the window of the police cruiser, the civil complaint says.

Shortly after being chased on foot by Felton, Romero obeyed the officer’s commands to stop running and laid down with his face on the ground, the complaint says. Romero was not resisting arrest, was not a physical threat to the officer, was unarmed, and had his arms and hands visible to the officer, the lawsuit says.

With his firearm still drawn, Felton approached the teen and kicked him, with force, in the ribs and in the face, “terrifying the plaintiff who thought he was going to die,” according to the complaint.

Felton placed Romero, who was handcuffed, in the backseat of the police cruiser and, without being provoked, allegedly struck the teen in the face and body, the suit says. Another officer allegedly watched the incident and did not intervene, the suit says.

The teen had a bruised face, cuts on his body, and was covered in the officers’ “shoeprints” from when they were allegedly “stomping on his legs and body” in the police station, the complaint says.

When Romero’s mother arrived to pick up her son, Felton handed her the citation and allegedly said her son “was very lucky since he could have been shot” and explained he had to “rough up [the teen] in order to teach him a lesson.”

Following a criminal investigation conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Felton was released from duty and is no longer employed by the City of Baldwin Park, Captain Chris Hofford told CNN.

“It was objectively unreasonable for officers to have applied this level of force on my sixteen-year-old client,” said Romero’s attorney, Wesley Ouchi. “He was cooperative, surrendered, unarmed, non-resisting, compliant, and non-threatening. This conduct is universally unacceptable in any society.”

CNN is attempting to obtain video of the arrest from the backseat of the police vehicle and officers’ body cameras. Officials from the Baldwin Park Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department both declined to provide video footage Wednesday amid the ongoing investigation.

Felton is scheduled to return to court for a hearing on December 7 at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center, the LA County district attorney’s office said.

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