A Reading, Pennsylvania Police officer is now facing charges after he allegedly attacked a woman during a traffic stop and then lied about the incident in his report. Officer Jesus Santiago-DeJesus is charged with official oppression and fabricating evidence.
Officer Santiago-DeJesus pulled over Marcelina Cintron-Garcia, 30, and her boyfriend, Joel Rodriguez, 24, in Readinpg back on April 5. The officer told the couple they had failed to use their turn signal, according to officials. Cintron-Garcia told NBC10 she then began to record the officer on her cellphone which triggered an angry reaction.
“He slapped my phone away,” she said.
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After smashing her phone on the sidewalk, Officer Santiago-DeJesus then punched Cintron-Garcia and pushed her to the pavement, according to officials.
“It’s like he pushed me and threw me to the floor,” Cintron-Garcia said. “He was really, really hard with me.”
Cintron-Garcia suffered a gash to her head and had to be hospitalized. Despite this, she was still charged with aggravated and simple assault as well as traffic offenses while her boyfriend was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The couple then filed a complaint with Reading city police who turned the investigation over to the Berks County District Attorney’s Office.
Investigators say they viewed surveillance video as well as cellphone recordings and determined the couple was innocent. They also say the couple actually did use their turn signal and are unsure why Officer Santiago-DeJesus pulled them over in the first place.
After further investigation, authorities dropped the charges against the couple. They also determined Officer Santiago-DeJesus destroyed and falsified evidence and acted excessively during his interaction with Cintron-Garcia.
“We firmly believe the force was unnecessary and excessive,” said Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams.
During a press conference Wednesday, Adams announced Officer Santiago-DeJesus was placed on administrative leave and will face charges.
“You really get no satisfaction in filing charges against a fellow law enforcement officer,” Adams said. “But we will not permit the integrity of the criminal justice system to be compromised.”
Authorities told NBC10 Officer Santiago-DeJesus had similar issues in the past and smashed the cellphone of another person a few months ago. He is set to face a judge Thursday. Cintron-Garcia and Rodriguez meanwhile are happy the charges against them were dropped and glad that they recorded the incident.
“The officers, they got their right to record when they stop you,” Rodriguez said. “As citizens, we’ve got the same right to record.”