A 16-year-old high school student facing criminal assault charges after an altercation with Chula Vista police spoke to the media Friday and demanded the officer that she said attacked her be put on leave and investigated.
The girl, identified as Liz, was surrounded by fellow students and flanked by adults holding signs of support.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Liz said that she, her friends and other young people in her community deserve respect and justice regardless of their perceived status in the community.
Liz demanded that she and three other teens arrested on Wednesday have their records cleared, and denounced allegations made by police that they are involved in gang activity.
The Palomar high school student told NBC 7 before the news conference she was at Loma Verde Park around 4 p.m. Wednesday with her friends doing homework and playing football when the officers showed up. The park is near Castle Park High School.
A student said he asked an officer if they wanted to play catch and held up the peace sign with his fingers.
Shortly after more than a dozen officers responded and started putting kids in handcuffs. Chula Vista Police Department said Thursday the officers responded to the park because they saw someone flashing gang signs.
The commotion of the arrests attracted more teenagers, including Liz, who gathered around as officers yelled at them to get back.
"One of the cops, one of the female cops pushes me with the stick and I got mad and I had a bottle so I threw it on the floor and I cussed at her," Liz told NBC 7 before the news conference.
CVPD said the girl threw a plastic water bottle at a female officer, hitting her in the chest — a moment not captured on a video posted to social media. She was arrested on suspicion of battery on a police officer.
Cameras did catch the moment a male officer charged her with his baton and tackled her to the ground.
Liz reiterated at the park that she threw the empty bottle at the ground, not at the female officer, and that it bounced and hit a male officer in the leg.
“Although it was a plastic water bottle, it’s still an assault on a police officer,” CVPD Capt. Vern Sallee said. “It's something that is exceedingly serious nature when someone actually takes that proactive assaultive step to batter a police officer."
The department is now interviewing all of the officers and reviewing their body-worn camera videos as part of an internal investigation they say will take weeks.
At this point, Sallee said the department has seen nothing to warrant discipline to the officer.
“Our officer reacted as he is trained to react to protect another officer,” Sallee said. “However, what I will say is we need, in the totality of it, to look at proportionality of the reaction. If it was within training, if it was appropriate with the circumstances or not."
The officer involved has been transferred to a desk job with no field duties as of Thursday night.
Liz said Loma Verde Park will continue to be the place where she and fellow students wait for their parents, hang out and "throw up our deuces (peace sign) to anyone that comes through."
Marco Amaral, a Sweetwater Union High School District teacher, also spoke at Liz's side Friday and claimed the Chula Vista Police Department has been racially profiling young people at the park for years.
He also criticized the officer's response to the incident, saying they came ready to "attack at any moment."
"I have students here who have said F-bombs to me. I have students here who have thrown things at me," he said. "And I can't for a second imagine putting a finger on them."
Amaral said the conversation in the wake of the incident should be about how the officers "did not act like adults."
Check back for updates on this developing story.