SILVER SPRING, Md, (WJZ) — A Montgomery County police officer whose use of force during an arrest captured on video was widely criticized on social media has been taken off the streets pending an investigation, the police department said Friday.
Cell phone video uploaded to Twitter Thursday showed a Montgomery County police officer kneeing a man’s head into the ground while handcuffing him. Afterward, the suspect can be seen with a bloody mouth.
“It does show some use of force by an officer,” said Capt. Tom Jordan with the Montgomery County Department of Police. “We are looking into all aspects of this incident and will continue to investigate.”
At one point in the video, the suspect yells at an officer, “I just spit on your (expletive) shoe,” after which the officer pulled the man’s shirt over his face.
WARNING: The video and its caption contain profanity.
The officer, Kevin Moris, has since been assigned to administrative duties and his police powers have been suspended as the department reviews the incident, the department said in a statement.
The man arrested, 19-year-old Arnaldo Pesoa of Silver Spring, reportedly resisted arrest when police made contact with him inside a restaurant in the Aspen Hill Shopping Center Wednesday.
He was taken to jail on charges of possession of a controlled dangerous substance, attempted distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, resisting arrest and second-degree assault. He posted a $5,000 bond and was released.
Police said officers were conducting an undercover operation regarding Pesoa selling psilocybin mushrooms in the area when the incident occurred.
The department said it takes all reports of excessive force seriously.
“Furthermore, the officer’s use of force during this incident will be investigated by MCP’s Criminal Investigations Division and upon completion, the findings will be referred to the Montgomery County State’s Attorneys Office for review,” they said.
Montgomery County Executive Mark Elrich also released a statement about the incident, saying, “I want to ensure that all residents of this county are treated respectfully and fairly by our police force.”
He called the video “horrifying.”
“I have met with many officers who are dedicated to protecting and serving our communities fairly and with respect,” Elrich said. “However, incidents like this erode the trust people have in law enforcement. This is why a thorough and expedited investigation must take place.”
The investigation comes two months after another controversial incident involving an officer in which the officer used a racist slur to refer to several detained black men.
WJZ asked the department if the two cases could strain relations between the public and police.
“It is a concern. It’s a concern for the community. It’s a concern for the police as well,” Jordan said.
The investigation will involve a review of body camera and surveillance footage, and any witnesses are asked to call the department at 240-773-6000.
It will be up to the state’s attorney’s office to decide whether or not to charge Jordan with a crime.
The police department’s full statement released Friday reads as follows:
Yesterday, July 4th, the Montgomery County Department of Police were made aware of a video that was posted on Twitter during the evening of July 3. The video showed a Montgomery County Police officer using force while making an arrest at a shopping center in Aspen Hill.
The preliminary investigation has determined that on July 3, 2019, officers from the 4th District were conducting an undercover operation regarding a suspect selling psilocybin mushrooms in the Aspen Hill area. During this investigation, officers identified the suspect as 19-year-old Arnaldo Pesoa of Silver Spring. Plainclothes officers located Pesoa inside a restaurant in the Aspen Hill Shopping Center located at 13701 Connecticut Avenue and attempted to place him under arrest for the attempted distribution of a controlled dangerous substance. Pesoa became disorderly with the officers inside the restaurant and resisted the arrest. Officers eventually removed Pesoa from the restaurant. While outside the restaurant, Pesoa continued to act in a disorderly manner and resist arrest.
Pesoa was transported to the Central Processing Unit where he was charged with one count of possession of a controlled dangerous substance, one count of attempt distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, one count of resisting arrest, and one count of second-degree assault. Pesoa was released after posting a $5,000 bond.
The Montgomery County Department of Police takes all complaints or evidence of excessive force seriously.
As a result of the Department’s preliminary investigation into this arrest, the officer involved has been identified Police Officer III Kevin Moris of the 4th District Special Assignment Team. Officer Moris’ police powers have been suspended and he has been assigned to administrative duties pending the investigation. Furthermore, the officer’s use of force during this incident will be investigated by MCP’s Criminal Investigations Division and upon completion, the findings will be referred to the Montgomery County State’s Attorneys Office for review.
The Department’s internal investigation into this incident is ongoing. Any witnesses or persons who may have more information regarding this incident are encouraged to call the Internal Affairs Division at 240-773-6000.