Police officer placed on leave after hitting bystander on video

Livestreaming a video of an arrest where a police officer's use of force leads to his arrest.

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Recorded on a livestream video striking a bystander during a separate arrest, a Kentucky police officer has been placed on administration leave pending an investigation into the incident.

On Tuesday, Joseph Bennett was exiting a McDonald’s off Blankenbaker Parkway in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, when he noticed several police officers surrounding a vehicle in the parking lot. Bennett parked his car and began livestreaming a video of the arrest.

In the video, Bennett stated, “Y’all, I just saw some J-town police, five of ‘em, pulled over a couple black fellas, or black people. I’m not sure. I can’t see. Nothing going on or anything. Just doing my due diligence as a citizen to watch things, so I’m not going to move or approach. Nobody seems aggressive, but the stance wasn’t right so I’m watching.”

Bennett continued livestreaming for a couple minutes and informed the audience that he waved at the officers to let them know that he was recording them but had no intention of getting involved in their arrest. Bennett added, “Hopefully, this’ll ended up easygoing. No issues or anything. Ain’t nobody looking for a problem.”

Bennett admitted that it was difficult to see much of the arrest because he was standing so far away from the officers, but he did not want to interfere with their work. Bennett said that he began the livestream because he did not see the need for five police cars to pull over one vehicle.

Three minutes into the livestream video, Jeffersontown Police Officers Cruz and Wescott approached Bennett and demanded to see his identification because he was filming a crime scene investigation. Bennett refused to show Officer Cruz his identification due to the fact that he was not committing a crime and was filming in public.

Cruz suddenly grabbed Bennett’s camera and reportedly struck him in the face, which resulted in a black eye. According to Jeffersontown Police Chief Richard Sanders, one of the detained suspects pointed Bennett out as he was livestreaming and told the officers that Bennett was their getaway driver.

“Had they said, ‘Sir, we’d like to detain you for questioning. We’d like to ask you some questions.’ It would have been totally different. I would have produced my ID immediately, because that’s what a good citizen does,” Bennett told WLKY.

Bennett was released from police custody and cleared of any criminal charges.

On Saturday, Jeffersontown Mayor Bill Dieruf issued the following statement:

On November 25, 2020, the Jeffersontown Police Department arrested two persons from Evansville, Indiana and a third person from Atlanta, Georgia in connection with a multi-state fraudulent check cashing scheme involving various Kentucky banks in several cities, including the Cub Bank in Jeffersontown. These persons have been charged with various felonies and are currently housed in Metro Corrections.

“Regrettably, a person videotaping the Department’s response to the bank was identified by at least one witness as a person also possibly involved in the scheme. He was approached by Officer Cruz, who asked the individual for identification. The person refused to identify himself or provide identification, and a brief altercation ensued. A second officer was able to help restore order quickly. The individual is not connected with the bank fraud scheme and was released at the scene.

“I was promptly made aware of the matter by Chief Sanders. Although no citizen complaint has been filed by Mr. Bennett, Chief Sanders has already begun an internal investigation of the matter. I fully support this decision, as well as the investigation. Chief Sanders has assured me that all documents related to the internal investigation will be released upon its conclusion.

“I will be reaching out to Mr. Bennett in the very near future to assure him that we are taking this incident with all seriousness, and to restore his faith in the City.”

“Would I do it again? Yes. Am I chasing it down? No,” Bennett told WLKY. “I watch because that’s my duty as a citizen. We have to watch each other. We have to protect each other, and I think if more people watched we would have less of these issues.”

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