California officer charged with assault after allegedly kicking teen during traffic stop

California officer charged with assault after allegedly kicking teen during traffic stop
© Associated Press/Reed Saxon

A police officer in Los Angeles County has been charged in connection to the arrest of a 16-year-old boy he allegedly kicked after the suspect had surrendered and was lying face down on the ground. 

Ryan Felton, 35, a former officer for the Baldwin Park Police Department, was arrested and charged with two felony counts of assault, according to a statement released by the district attorney's office. Felton pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Sept. 22, 2019, Felton reportedly assisted another officer in pulling over a vehicle in which the 16-year-old, identified as Anthony Romero, was a passenger, after the driver allegedly failed to yield at a traffic stop, the lawsuit says, according to CNN.

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In a civil complaint, attorneys for the teen say that Romero exited the vehicle and began to run out of fear after seeing Felton pointing his firearm through his police car window. 

After being chased on foot by Felton, Romero complied with the officer and laid down with his face to the ground, CNN noted, citing the civil complaint. It says that Romero was not resisting arrest, was not a physical threat and was unarmed. With his firearm still drawn, Felton approached Romero and allegedly kicked him with force in the ribs and face.

Felton later placed Romero in the police car and struck the teen in the face and body without being provoked, the lawsuit says, according to CNN. Another officer witnessed the incident but did not intervene, the suit adds.

The civil complaint says that the teen reportedly left with a bruised face, cuts on his body and "shoeprints" from the officers after they allegedly stomped on "his legs and body" in the police station.

When the teen's mother picked up her son, CNN noted that Felton handed her a citation and said her son "was very lucky since he could have been shot," adding that he had to "rough up [the teen] in order to teach him a lesson."

Felton was released from duty and is no longer employed by the department after a criminal investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Captain Chris Hofford told CNN.

“Those who wear the uniform must follow the law. Excessive force will not be tolerated in Los Angeles County,” District Attorney George Gascón (D) said in the statement.

Attorneys for Romero filed a lawsuit on Sept 10 against Felton and other officers in the department, CNN reported. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial as well as general and punitive damages for Romero.

"It was objectively unreasonable for officers to have applied this level of force on my sixteen-year-old client," Romero's attorney, Wesley Ouchi, told the news outlet. "He was cooperative, surrendered, unarmed, non-resisting, compliant, and non-threatening. This conduct is universally unacceptable in any society."