by Andrew Emett
January 6, 2017
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Caught on cellphone video punching a woman in the face and falsely accusing her of assaulting him, an Arizona police officer resigned this week after an independent investigation found many inconsistencies in the officer’s version of events. Besides the officer’s body camera suspiciously turning off before the incident, none of the other law enforcement officers present witnessed the woman allegedly attacking him.
On November 16, Flagstaff Police Officer Jeff Bonar was assisting the Coconino Sheriff’s Office in serving an eviction notice when he suddenly confronted a woman walking outside named Marissa Morris. According to Deputy Joel Winchester, Bonar told Morris that she had a warrant out for her arrest.
After insisting that she no longer had any outstanding warrants, Morris turned to walk away when Bonar grabbed her arm and detained her in the driveway. In a cellphone video recorded by Morris’ boyfriend, Jimmy Sedillo, both officers can be seen pressing Morris against a porch as she tells Bonar, “You cannot arrest me until I know that I have a warrant.”
Without warning or provocation, Bonar abruptly sucker-punches Morris in the face as a man’s voice can be heard protesting, “Hey! You can’t hit a girl like that.”
According to Bonar’s arrest report, Morris was concealing her hands and attempting to escape from him when he initially contacted her. After Morris allegedly kneed him in the legs and groin, Bonar wrote that he punched her in the face and placed her in handcuffs.
But the cellphone video and the other officers at the scene do not corroborate Bonar’s report. Although Morris was not actively cooperating with her arrest, she never appeared to assault the officers or even fight back after Bonar struck her.
Despite the fact that Morris had resolved her warrants a month earlier, Bonar arrested her on suspicion of aggravated assault and resisting arrest. Instead of simply verifying whether Morris’ warrants remained outstanding, Bonar arrested an innocent woman and falsely accused her of attacking him.
Video recorded from Bonar’s body camera captured his arrival at the scene and the moments following Morris’ arrest, but failed to record the entire incident. Placed on administrative leave following the arrest, Bonar resigned Tuesday after an independent investigation found he committed six policy violations, including the use of excessive force and failing to activate his body camera before the confrontation.
On Wednesday, Flagstaff Police Chief Kevin Treadway announced that Bonar had recently resigned after an independent report called for his immediate termination from the department. Bonar currently does not face any criminal charges, while possible charges against Morris remain under review.