Deputy’s Violence Toward Suspect Was Out Of Character, A Colleague Insists

The action of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Corie Smith, seen on a surveillance video twice kicking a surrendering suspect in the head, was completely out of character, one of his fellow deputies told the Sentinel.
The video unequivocally shows Smith kicking a compliant Willie Jones, who shortly before had attempted to flee from deputies after an attempt to stop him for what the department said were “numerous traffic violations.”
Early in the morning of June 16, a motorcyclist, later identified as the 32-year-old Jones, was observed by a deputy operating his motorbike in a flagrantly dangerous manner in the area of Seventh and Lincoln streets in Victorville, according to the department. When an effort to pull Jones over was made, Jones accelerated and, traveling at excessive speed, ran multiple traffic signals, entered the northbound lanes of Interstate 15 in the opposite direction and almost collided head-on into several vehicles. A radio dispatch from the pursuing patrol deputy went out.
Thereafter, Jones exited the freeway in the vicinity of Roy Rogers Drive/La Paz Avenue, then headed toward the Valley Hi Toyota Dealership, located on Valley Center Drive. He dropped his bike at the side of the road behind the dealership and fled onto the dealership’s lot on foot. There, for a time, he hid beneath the undercarriage of a vehicle.
Surveillance footage of the lot, which has since been obtained by the Sentinel, shows what appears to be a lot lit by overhead lights with ten vehicles in the video’s range of field. There is no immediate activity, but roughly five seconds into the video, Jones can be seen crawling out from underneath a black pickup truck. He remains crouched down, and roughly 22 seconds into the video he remains crouched as he creeps in the direction at an angle that brings him somewhat closer to the camera, which is mounted at an elevated level. Jones makes his way to the front of another vehicle, an SUV, and then moves in the same direction, yet crouching, toward another pickup truck. Having reached that point, he stands upright and continues past that pickup truck to another vehicle, what appears to be a white compact, assuming a casual attitude, but looking back in the direction from which he came. At 37 seconds into the video, Deputy Smith comes into the camera’s field of view from the direction in which Jones was looking.
At that point, Jones begins walking, at first nonchalantly, back in the direction from which he came as if to see if he can simply pass himself off as a pedestrian walking through the car lot. When Smith immediately veered in his direction, however, Jones raised his hands in a show of surrender and Jones, carrying what appears to be either a lit flashlight or a laser source comes toward him. At 42 seconds into the video, Jones begins to bend down and at 44 seconds into the video is on his knees with his hands touching the ground, and he appears to be heading into a prone position. At 46 seconds, Jones’ hips are flat on the ground as are his forearms, with his neck and head arched up, just as Smith begins a powerwalk and rather gratuitously, using his right, foot kicks Jones in the head with considerable force. Smith then shines the light he is holding on Jones, and at 48 seconds into the video, kicks him in the head once more, this time somewhat less forcefully. Jones, whose position on the ground shifted to his right somewhat because of the violence of the kicks, laid completely prone, with his head on the pavement. Smith at that point bends down and seizes Jones’ left arm at the 51 second point and bends it up to take it behind Jones and begin handcuffing him. Smith has bent Jones’ right arm back to fully effectuate the handcuffing at 53 seconds, when another deputy comes into the video’s frame of view. That deputy assists Smith and at one minute and seven seconds into the video, a third deputy arrives. A fourth deputy arrives at the 1:34 mark and then a fifth deputy four seconds later. From that point on, Jones’ arrest is carried out with no further incident on the video, and Jones is led away.
The violence exhibited against Jones during the arrest came two weeks and one-and-one-half days after Sheriff’s Sergeant Dominic Vaca was killed in Yucca Valley in broad daylight during the noon hour on May 31, at the end of an incident in which deputies there sought to make a traffic stop of another motorcyclist, Bilal Winston Shabazz, for riding a motorcycle without a license plate. Like Jones, Shabazz fled and when Vaca approached him, Shabazz, who was armed, shot and killed him. Shabazz was himself mortally wounded by other deputies at the Yucca Valley scene.
Smith began with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in April 2016, and has been assigned to the Victorville Sheriff’s Station since September 2017.
Earlier this year, the department presented Deputy Smith with two lifesaving awards. One of those pertained to an incident on August 26, 2020, when he responded to a call and found a two-year-old lying in a pool of blood and bleeding profusely from multiple stab wounds in his chest and abdomen. Smith used his fingers to plug the wounds to stem the bleeding until medical help arrived. The child survived. On July 11, 2020, Smith responded to a call of a woman having a medical emergency. Upon arrival, he found an unresponsive woman, with three young children in a car with the engine running inside a garage in which the temperature exceeded 140 degrees. Smith was credited with saving the lives of the children.
Undersheriff Shannon Dicus, speaking for Sheriff John McMahon, in a video released before Smith was publicly identified, said, “I want to [assure] the citizens of San Bernardino County, the sheriff and I are aware of the alarming video depicting a deputy kicking a suspect. This video came to our attention after a Victorville watch commander was contacted by the security company that monitors the parking lot where this incident occurred. The watch commander reviewed the video and immediately determined the deputy’s actions were disturbing. The watch commander notified the commander of the station. I want to [assure] the community it is our expectation that deputies respond to any incident professionally and in a manner that’s consistent with their training. We know the community’s trust is the platform which enables us to do our jobs. The deputy involved in this incident was immediately taken off duty and placed on administrative leave. A criminal investigation is being conducted. This investigation will be submitted to the district attorney. Subsequently, an administrative investigation will also be initiated to allow for the appropriate employment actions to be taken. It’s unfortunate when incidents like these occur, because it causes turmoil within our communities and equally amongst our deputies who pride themselves on providing professional service. We take these matters seriously, and want to assure you a thorough investigation will be conducted.”

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