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May 19, 2016

DA: Reading police officer punched woman during traffic stop

Surveillance footage from traffic stop suggests couple was 'falsely implicated'

A Pennsylvania police officer is facing criminal charges after prosecutors say surveillance footage from an April traffic stop shows him punching a woman who attempted to film the interaction.

According to the Berks County District Attorney's Office, Officer Jesus Santiago-DeJesus, a four-year veteran of the Reading Police Department, pulled over Marcelina Cintron-Garcia for allegedly failing to use a turn signal while entering a parking space on April 5, ABC News reports.

Surveillance footage from the scene, obtained by the news station, shows that Cintron-Garcia's front right turn signal was in fact on at the time of the traffic stop. She and her boyfriend, Joel Rodriguez, challenged Santiago-DeJesus and engaged in a "verbal disagreement" before they exited the vehicle and began to film the interaction with their cell phones.

When Cintron-Garcia refused to give the officer her cell phone, prosecutors say Santiago-DeJesus "forcibly wrestled" it from her and threw it down on the sidewalk. At that point, surveillance footage appears to show Santiago-DeJesus punch Cintron-Garcia. She was later taken to Reading Hospital to be treated for injuries allegedly sustained during the incident.

Multiple charges against the couple were withdrawn by the DA's office, which said the interaction was escalated by police behavior.

Santiago-DeJesus has been charged with official oppression, criminal mischief, criminal attempt to tamper with or fabricate physical evidence, false reports to law enforcement authorities and unsworn falsification to authorities. He has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation by the Reading Police Department.