San Diego Detective Places Black Man In Chokehold Over Traffic Issue (Video)

| by Michael Allen
Screen Capture.Screen Capture.

An African-American man was reportedly placed in a chokehold by a San Diego County sheriff's detective on May 5.

The incident was caught on a cellphone video (below) by Robert Branch, who was being choked.

Branch claims he passed a Ford Fusion on his way to work, but the driver of the Fusion tried to run him off Interstate 8.

"I'm in the dirt. We're side by side, we're literally side by side, so I start picking up speed so I can just back on the freeway," Branch recalled to Team 10.

Branch says he later exited the freeway and pulled over on a side street where the driver of the Ford Fusion pulled up behind him.

Branch turned on his cellphone to start filming and stated, "I'm in La Mesa right now. You see this officer right now. Right now, he does not have his lights on."

According to Team 10, a plainclothes San Diego detective from the Child Abuse Unit, Paul Ward, is seen next to Branch. Branch works as a security guard, and was wearing a vest with the word "security" on it.

Branch asks witnesses off-camera to call 911, Ward tells him that he is being detained and to sit down. Moments later, Ward apparently puts Branch in a chokehold. At one point, Branch reportedly passed out, but came to.

Branch was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing justice and reckless driving. Branch's lawyer, Marc Kohnen, claims Ward did not identify himself correctly and used unnecessary force on Branch.

"He earnestly thought he was going to die,” Kohnen told UT San Diego.

Pablo Martinez, who witnessed the incident, told Team 10:

"He (Branch) kept on telling him (Ward), ‘Who are you?’ He kept on asking him, ‘Who are you? Show me something that tells me who you are.’ And the guy just wouldn't show him. If he was a deputy, that's news to me.

"The kid (Branch) never threw a punch or nothing. He just didn't want him to touch him. And the officer kept on grabbing him right here and grabbing him right here, and get on his neck. I thought the guy (Ward) was a criminal. If he wasn't a criminal, then man, that's abuse."

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department issued a statement that contradicted Martinez and appeared to justify the chokehold, which the department claimed was actually a "carotid-restraint":

"Detective Ward verbally identified himself to Branch as a San Diego Deputy Sheriff and produced his badge and identification card. Branch was wearing a black tactical vest with "Security" on the front with an attached gun holster.

"Detective Ward asked Branch for his license and registration, at which time Branch became agitated, uncooperative, and refused to comply with Detective Ward's request. Branch claimed Detective Ward was not on duty.

"Detective Ward attempted to check Branch for weapons, however, Branch physically resisted those attempts. Detective Ward explained to Branch he was being detained, however, Branch refused to comply and began to walk away.

"At this point, Branch started to record the encounter on his cellphone. As Branch continued to resist, he turned his back to Detective Ward. Detective Ward could not see his hands or if Branch was reaching for a gun or other weapon from the front of his vest.

"At that point, Detective Ward applied the department-approved carotid-restraint to bring Branch under control. Detective Ward requested a passerby to call the police. Branch passed out for several seconds and then regained consciousness, where he continued to be uncooperative, hostile, and attempted to flee. Detective Ward again placed his arm around Branch in a carotid restraint position, but he did not apply pressure to render Branch unconscious."

The Washington Post notes that police chokeholds have resulted in numerous deaths across the U.S.

Sources: Team 10, UT San Diego, The Washington Post
Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot