PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — In a now-viral video, two Oakland County Sheriff’s Office deputies are seen repeatedly punching a woman whose family says is mentally ill. The video has led to outrage, and a discussion in front of the Pontiac City Council.
“It's not the fact that she’s my mother, it’s not the fact that she was Black, it’s the fact that she’s a human being and she was treated like that,” said the woman's daughter Diressee Stephens during the meeting.
Diressee and her sister spoke to the council, saying their mother is bipolar and schizophrenic and has had encounters with police before that didn’t end like this.
"It really hurt, hard to watch it. It took me five tries to get through that video,” Stephens said. "What hurt me the most was the striking after she was face down in the dirt, after she was cuffed.”
The sheriff’s office says when deputies arrived, the woman was trying to light a rag on fire. About 30 seconds later, she exposed herself, leading to a scuffle where deputies say they were bit as the video ends.
“The officers were bit multiple times. Those strikes did not occur until those officers were bit," Capt. Todd Hill said. "She was physically biting them on the arms, on the legs, on the inside of the thighs."
Capt. Andre Ewing says the deputies used closed hand strikes to stop the biting. Both deputies had visible bite marks on their arms and legs. However, family contends the punches went too far and for too long. The woman’s mugshot, shows a swollen black eye.
“I'm sure the deputies just tried to hit her in the side, but sometimes when you're swinging and you're getting bit, sometimes you might get hit in the face or in the head,” Ewing said.
Even with a social worker on site riding with the deputies, the encounter still escalated to violence. The Pontiac City Council voted to have the sheriff’s office investigate as the family fights for answers.
"There are more questions to be answered and a thorough, fair, transparent investigation will help," Pontiac City Council President Mike McGuinness said.
"At then end of the day, I'm standing up here," the woman's daughter said during the meeting. "I’m being strong because that’s my mom and she doesn't have anyone fighting for her.”
The woman is still in the Oakland County Jail facing six charges and a bond that's over $50,000.
The two officers involved have not been suspended.