CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A video circulating on social media shows a North Carolina police officer striking a woman repeatedly during an arrest while several other officers held her down. However, police officials said the officer was "intentional" about where he hit the woman to get her to stop resisting and comply.
When Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers approached two people smoking marijuana on Monday, a woman punched an officer in the face, police said in a statement. A man who was there had a firearm, he and the woman "refused arrest" and a struggle ensued, said police, adding that the woman was lying on her hands and not allowing officers to arrest her.
One bystander video posted online shows four officers kneeling and holding the woman down as a fifth repeatedly strikes her with a closed fist. As it was happening, bystanders were shouting at the officers to stop. After a few seconds, the officers stand up and lead the woman to a squad SUV with her arms behind her back.
According to the police department, the officer struck the woman in the thigh and told her to "stop resisting."
"After several repeated verbal commands, an officer struck the female subject seven times with knee strikes and 10 closed fist strikes to the peroneal nerve in the thigh to try to gain compliance," police said. "The officer was intentional about where the strikes were made."
The department didn't release the name of the officer who struck the woman or say whether he would face any immediate discipline, but it said its internal affairs bureau is investigating.
Police contend that the woman assaulted an officer. Neither the video that shows the officer striking the woman nor two other videos shot from a different angle by someone else show the beginning of the encounter between police and the two people they arrested.
The video is "not easy to watch," Chief Johnny Jennings said in a statement, but when people assault officers and resist arrest, officers "must physically engage with them" to take them into custody safely.
"I watched the body-worn camera footage and believe that it tells more of the story than what is circulating on social media," Jennings said.
The chief said the public should get to see the bodycam footage and since North Carolina law requires a court order to release such video, he has asked the department's attorney to file a petition to allow the department to release the footage to the public, though it could take some time.
The man was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and the woman was charged with assault on a government official. Both were also charged with resisting officers and marijuana possession.
The Bojangles restaurant chain confirmed that the man and woman work at its location near the scene of the arrest. But it said they had already finished their shifts and were off the property when they were approached by police, news outlets reported.
"Like many other Charlotteans, we were shocked and saddened by the video of an incident between Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and a Bojangles employee," Vice President of Communications Stacey McCray said. "While we wait to learn more of the details of what led to the incident, we plan to cooperate fully with any investigation."