GOODYEAR, AZ - A controversial arrest caught on video after a woman claims she was punched and dragged by a Goodyear police officer who says he was just trying to gain control of a dangerous situation.
According to a Goodyear Police report, an officer was at the QT located at 550 N Dysart Road in Goodyear around 11:46 a.m. Thursday, September 6.
The report states the officer conducted a registration check on 38-year-old Renee Armenta's car which showed that Armenta's driving privileges had been revoked.
The officer pulled up Armenta's driver’s license photo and was able to match it when Armenta and a man, identified as 27-year-old John Charlie Moreno Aguilar, got into the car.
The officer pulled them over near Dysart Road and Van Buren Street when he noticed them make an illegal turn. The officer states he was able to match the driver with the picture on the driver's license by the tattoos on her neck and asked the driver if she was Renee Armenta, to which Armenta says she said 'yes.'
It's what happened next that Armenta disputes. She says she knew she shouldn't have been driving on a suspended license -- court records show she has entered a guilty plea to this sort of charge in the past -- but says she had no other choice because she needed to get to an emergency at her son's school.
She says the officer was aggressive and wouldn't answer her questions.
"I kinda said like 'wait, wait, like what's going on? What am I being arrested for?" she added.
The police report states the officer felt "uneasy" when he approached the vehicle and said Armenta's male passenger's hand appeared to shake.
The officer told Armenta to step out of the car, at which point the report states, she became argumentative and began asking what was going on.
It states the officer told Armenta she was under arrest as he had witnessed her driving on a highway on a suspended license, and states she began to back away and "quickly placed her left arm behind her back."
The officer reported that "it appeared to me as if she was grabbing for something concealed on her person behind her back. I thought it could have been a gun or a knife."
Assuming his life was in danger, the officer grabbed her arm and as she began to move back toward the vehicle. The officer stated he needed to get control of the situation, unsure about what her male passenger would do -- who was still in the car -- as he had not done a search of him or the vehicle.
The report also states "I had no other choice to protect myself from losing control and prevent being attacked," and hit Armenta in the face with a right hook.
"I got scared. I was like 'what's going on, what's going on,' I see him, and I go 'oh, my God, no! He's not, and then he hit me," said Armenta.
A witness phone video captured the punch and what appears to show the officer then drag Armenta across the asphalt toward his vehicle. Pulling out his gun when her passenger stepped out of the car.
"I just thought the worst. I thought I was going to die; I just didn't know what was going on," she said.
The report states back-up arrived just as the male passenger put his hands up and Armenta was placed in handcuffs.
A search of her vehicle turned up drug paraphernalia and marijuana inside a black purse, which Armenta denied being hers.
Armenta was taken to the hospital for minor injuries to her legs and the hit to the forehead. She was released and booked into jail on several charges including resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, and driving with a suspended license. She was later released pending a pre-trial hearing.
Her passenger, Aguilar, was booked on possession of drug paraphernalia charges and later released as well.
Armenta says the officer was too aggressive and that she panicked and got scared at the situation. Telling officers she had worked hard to get her kids back and was afraid everything would be ruined.
"I'm a mom. I stay at home. I got my kids, like; this shouldn't happen to anybody. It shouldn't happen to anybody," she said. "I was worried, like, what's gonna happen with my kids? With my house? I'm the one that takes care of everything."
Armenta's attorney, Anthony Ramirez, told ABC15 he is not concerned with filing a lawsuit against the police department right now. He said his focus is on fighting the current charges.
Goodyear Police also released the following statement:
"When a conflict with a suspect occurs during an arrest, this presents a challenging and often dangerous situation for the arresting officer. The top priority of the Goodyear Police Department is the safety of the public as well as our officers. When a situation like this occurs, it can appear frightening to passersby who don't understand the full context of the situation.
In the interest of transparency and maintaining the trust of the public, the Goodyear Police Department is currently investigating the specifics of this particular case. We are working to review body cam footage and conducting interviews to determine exactly what occurred. Once our investigation is complete, and all the facts are in, we will be better able to provide accurate information as to the details of this arrest. We appreciate your patience as we conduct our thorough investigation."
The department followed up on that statement saying that they would be handing the case over to the Surprise Police Department, who will take over the investigation. The officer involved in the incident is still on duty.