California Police Launch Investigation After Officer Allegedly Kicks Suspect in Head After Chase

Police in El Monte, Calif., are conducting an internal investigation after TV cameras caught an officer apparently kick a suspect in the head following a high-speed car chase Wednesday afternoon.

El Monte Assistant Chief Steve Schuster said the investigation was sparked by phone calls by people who saw the kick in live footage taken from above in by helicopter. The suspect appeared to have surrendered and was lying face down on the ground when he was kicked.

"From our perspective [we] hate to comment until we have more facts. What's in the mind of the officer may not be what's in the mind of the viewer," Schuster said Wednesday. "As soon as we feel we can make a statement based on facts, we'll do that."

The driver of the car was identified as Richard Rodriguez, 23, of El Monte, Calif. He was booked on charges of felony evading, parole violation, obstruction and or delaying a police officer in the performance of his duties and gang enhancement. Rodriguez, a known gang member, was taken to a county jail.

The suspects were allegedly throwing gang signs during the chase, El Monte Lt. Chuck Carlson told

He didn't release the name of the officers involved or the two other suspects in custody.

El Monte police Chief Tom Armstrong said he had not yet seen the video and could not comment.

"Before coming to any conclusion, I want to look at all the facts," Armstrong said. "I don't know what was in the mind of the officer."

The chase started at about 1:30 p.m., when El Monte police tried to stop Rodriguez for a traffic violation, state Highway Patrol Officer Jose Nunez told There were two other men in the car.

The three fled the scene, sending police on a winding chase on freeways and surface streets that ended with a collision in Pico Rivera, reported.

One suspect jumped out of the car and surrendered to police when the car was forced to stop in traffic. Rodriguez sped away, and objects were thrown from the car, according to

Rodriguez hit an SUV after exiting a freeway, where police apprehended one suspect.

A foot pursuit followed the high-speed car chase that lasted more than 30 minutes and saw the suspect lead a chaotic drive through El Monte, Whittier and other parts of eastern Los Angeles County.

The suspect who was kicked had fled on foot behind a nearby apartment complex. It is unclear if that suspect is Rodriguez.

Two of the suspects were taken to Greater El Monte Community Hospital.

No one was seriously injured, Carlson said.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman at the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, had not seen the video and did not know if her office would conduct an independent review.

Click here for more on this story from's Jennifer Lawinski and the Associated Press contributed to this article.