TUCSON, AZ - Tucson's police chief said Monday that he's concerned an officer shoved a woman during a melee that broke out after the University of Arizona basketball team lost in the NCAA tournament but that it's too soon to judge why it happened.
The unidentified woman has filed a complaint that is being investigated by internal affairs, Chief Roberto Villasenor said, adding "that kind of force being used" is worrisome.
The incident occurred Saturday night as fans took to the streets near campus after the game and hurled beer bottles and firecrackers at officers, who then used pepper spray to disperse the crowd. Police said 15 people were arrested, many of whom were university students.
A bystander's cellphone video shows an officer apparently shoving the woman who was walking by into a bench. But Villasenor said police will examine police lapel video and conduct interviews with the officer, the woman and possibly other people to learn more, including what happened prior to the pushing.
Though the cellphone video's view is partially obscured by a man standing in front of the camera, "I think without a doubt you can see an officer shoved the young lady," Villasenor said during a telephone interview. "There's no question the young lady was shoved."
But "it is premature to make any kind of judgment" before getting the officer's explanation and other information that will be part of the review, which could take up to a week, he said.
Villasenor said the officer involved was identified, but the name was withheld.
Retired Phoenix Police Sergeant Andy Hill said the officer’s actions were uncalled for. “It definitely looks like it’s inappropriate,” Hill said.
A woman who reportedly took the cellphone footage didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Police have said that nine of the 15 people arrested in the Saturday clash with police attend the University of Arizona.
University officials vowed to punish students who participated in the fracas.
Dean of Students Kendal Washington White called the disturbance disappointing and said it was not reflective of the culture of the University of Arizona or Tucson.