In April, a viral video showed a police officer punching a 14-year-old boy on the ground in Rancho Cordova, California. After months of investigation, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the officer was terminated this week.
The 15-second video shows a white officer struggling to handcuff a black teenager before punching the boy multiple times and flipping him over. In the background, others can be heard yelling at the officer to “Stop!”
The Sacramento Bee reports that the boy’s family identified the officer as Brian Fowell. After the incident first happened, the boy, Elijah Tufono, expressed remorse for the incident. He told Fox 40, “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.”
According to The Sacramento Bee, it is unclear whether they met again.
Background on the Case
In their initial statement, the Rancho Cordova Police Department and the Sacramento County Sherriff’s Office said that an investigation was ongoing but “it’s important to put video footage into context, especially in relation to a use of force incident.”
At the beginning of the department’s statement, a disclaimer reads: “These are the facts as we understand them at this time. This investigation is in its infancy and the facts as we understand them now are subject to change as we conduct a more thorough and complete examination of the circumstances surrounding this incident. “
RCPD brutally tackled and hit my best friend’s 14 year old brother today over a swisher sweet! The officer had no reason to brutalize and traumatize this boy like this! He has a pre existing health condition which could be fatal under this kind of stress! Unjustifiable! pic.twitter.com/94fqyu3J28— De$🔮 (@destiinoo_) April 28, 2020
The video was uploaded to Twitter by user @destiinoo_ where she wrote that her best friend’s little brother was “brutally tackled and hit…over a swisher sweet [a flavored brand of cigar].” She wrote, “The officer had no reason to brutalize and traumatize this boy like this! He has a pre-existing health condition which could be fatal under this kind of stress! Unjustifiable!”
The video quickly gained traction on Twitter. To date, it has over 9.1 million views, 58,000 retweets, and 97,000 likes. It also reached lawmakers such as Senator Kamala Harris, who tweeted, “This is a horrific abuse of power. This officer must be held accountable.”
This is a horrific abuse of power. This officer must be held accountable. pic.twitter.com/jcAABFzWvj— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) April 28, 2020
Sergeant Tess Deterding said that the deputy witnessed “what he believed to be a hand-to-hand exchange between an adult and a juvenile.” The deputy approached and found the boy to be “uncooperative.”
Upon suspicion that criminal activity was occurring, the deputy attempted to detain the juvenile so he could conduct further investigation. Deterding’s statement continues, “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.”
According to the statement, tobacco products were found on the teen, which was alluded to in the original tweet. The teen was cited and released to his guardians.