NEW ORLEANS — A formal complaint has now been filed against a New Orleans police commander seen on video, body slamming a young woman during an arrest over the weekend.
Eight District Commander Octavio Baldassaro happened to be in the area of Bienville and North Rampart in the French Quarter, Saturday afternoon, when officers were called to the scene to break up a fight involving two groups of people.
Video surfaced on social media, showing the commander tossing 21-year-old Taylor Bruce to the ground.
Baldassaro's attorney Eric Hessler told WWL-TV, Bruce was one of the people fighting and his client was trying to arrest her when she refused to stay on the ground.
"He didn't intend to throw her to the ground," Hessler said. "That was an unintended consequence, but it happened. That should have been the end of it, but she comes back up after being ordered to stay on the ground and hits him with a heavy water bottle., a metal water bottle."
Bruce's attorney Robert Ferrier filed a complaint against Baldassaro with the NOPD's Public Intergrity Bureau.
"We believe that the police department used excessive force while making this arrest on my client," Ferrrier said. "Once all the facts come out she'll be completely exonerated and you all will understand how good of a person she actually is."
Ferrier noted that Bruce is a senior nursing student at Southern University in Baton Rouge and has never been in trouble with the law.
"Ms. Bruce has not only never been arrested, she's never seen handcuffs," Ferrier said. "She brings value to this community. She's not a criminal and she's not a fighter."
Hessler is confident Baldassaro followed NOPD policy.
"I have no problem with his actions," Hessler said. "I don't believe the department when they complete the investigation will find that he violated policy in anyway shape or form."
Ferrier maintains the investigation will show his client was wrongly arrested.
"We want to make sure we get to the bottom of this, what this officer was thinking and why my client was picked out to be slammed violently to the ground," Ferrier said.
PIB now has 120 days to complete the internal, use of force investigation.
"He used the proper amount of force, it was reasonable," Hessler said.
Commander Baldassaro remains on the job as commander of the Eighth District which includes the French Quarter and CBD.
Bruce is due in New Orleans Municipal Court next month facing a number of charges including disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer.