Driver Allegedly Beaten as St. Louis Police Officer Turns Off Dash Cam

St. Louis police under fire for stopping dash cam moments after assault.

February 17, 2015, 9:21 AM

— -- Police dash cam video released as a result of a lawsuit claiming excessive force appears to show St. Louis police officers allegedly beating up a driver before one of the cops tells another officer to "hold up" so they can turn the video off.

The incident happened in April 2014, when Cortez Bufford was pulled over, accused of speeding and making an illegal U-turn, Bufford's attorney Joel Schwartz told ABC News.

The officer "pulls Cortez to the side," Schwartz said. "He pulls over, the officer tells him to get out. You can hear him refusing, asking the officer what he did. The officer ... gets angry, at some point he says he smells marijuana, and drags [Cortez] out of the vehicle ... the officer took him to the ground."

St. Louis police have not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

Brian Millikan, a police union lawyer who represents one of the officers in the video, told St. Louis-based Fox station KTVI and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the officers' use of force was justified.

"The use of force that was necessary in this case was a direct result of the defendant`s actions or the suspect`s actions," Millikan said. "If you`ll notice, there was a passenger in that vehicle. He voluntarily removed himself. He complied with the officer`s requests and commands. There was no physical force necessary."

The video was first obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Schwartz said Bufford was kicked in the head and tazed.

In the video, one officer allegedly says, "Everybody hold up. We're red right now," before allegedly turning off the dash cam.

The term "red" is used by police to describe a running camera, Schwartz said.

Bufford was taken to the hospital and then jail, according to his lawyer. The charges against him –- a felony weapon offense and a misdemeanor for resisting arrest –- were later dropped.

"People can draw their own conclusions" after watching the video, Schwartz said. "If we felt [the cops' alleged action] was justified, we certainly wouldn't have filed suit."

Schwartz said it took almost a year for the video to be released because initially there was a protective order.

"Ultimately the case was dismissed and the order was lifted. Authorities then contacted us and asked if we would hold off on the video," Schwartz said.

Bufford's lawsuit is seeking $500,000 in damages for abrasions suffered during the alleged altercation, Schwartz said.

A spokeswoman for St. Louis mayor Francis Slay said the officer who turned off the dash-cam has already been "disciplined" because it is against department police for officers to turn off the dash-cams. "That camera should not have been turned off," communication director Maggie Crane said. However, she said that issue should not be "conflated" with the separate issue of whether officers used excessive force against Bufford.

She said the suspect was armed with a gun, was "disobeying" officers, was "punching and kicking" them, and "repeatedly reaching for his gun."

She says that dash-cams from two police cars were rolling, and only one was shut off. The video shows everything she described, she says. She emphasized that Bufford was driving a car that matched the description of a vehicle tied to reports of shots fired, that they saw him make an allegedly illegal U-turn, and that after the officers pulled Bufford over they allegedly smelled and saw marijuana. He was "combative with officers," she said.

As for the lawsuit, she said it "will work itself" through the court system.

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