A viral video of several Los Angeles police officers training their firearms on an unarmed woman drew fierce criticism online Monday, but police and prosecutors said Tuesday that the footage actually depicted the arrest of one of three people involved in a violent plot to hold an actor for ransom.
The video, taken early Monday near La Cienega Boulevard and Centinela Avenue, shows several police officers aiming their guns at a woman who has her hands in the air. As the woman walks backward toward the officers to surrender, the person filming the video can be heard questioning the large-scale police response.
“Five guns pointed at this woman, at this unarmed, black woman,” the person behind the camera says.
The video, which had been viewed nearly 2 million times on Twitter as of Tuesday morning, depicted the arrest of a woman who was the subject of a felony kidnapping warrant, said Officer Mike Lopez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that the woman was one of three people involved in a kidnapping and ransom plot that involved an actor being stripped naked and starved for more than a day.
Warning: The video contains explicit language.
The woman, identified as Amber Neal, 25, was indicted last month along with Keith Andre Stewart and Johntae Jones in a plot to kidnap and extort an actor and actress in Compton, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday.
The trio were charged with 17 felonies, including kidnapping, assault with a firearm and mayhem in connection with an incident that took place in May 2017, court records show.
Prosecutors said Stewart, Jones and Neal went to the home of actress Daisy McCrackin and “pistol whipped” actor Joseph Capone before placing black hoods on both victims. Capone was then taken hostage at a Compton home, where he was stripped naked and held in a bathtub without food for about 30 hours, according to the district attorney’s office.
While Jones held Capone hostage, Neal and Stewart drove McCrackin to several banks and forced her to write a check for $10,000 to secure Capone’s release. McCrackin was then taken back to her home, where she managed to escape and alert police.
A spokesman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment on the relationship between the victims and suspects.
The video — which was quickly criticized as a show of unnecessary police force on Twitter, but also drew some praise from police officials — comes at a time when the LAPD is beginning to release more footage recorded during “critical incidents” between the police and the public.
Under a new policy approved by the city’s Police Commission in March, the LAPD is now required to release all footage in its possession related to officer-involved shootings, encounters in which a person dies in LAPD custody and incidents in which officers’ use of force results in a person suffering serious injuries. The videos must be released within 45 days, with few exceptions.
The department has said it hopes the footage can offer teachable moments and has chosen to release the videos in a documentary-style format. The move has been met with some criticism and differs from approaches adopted by other cities that release videos, including Las Vegas and Chicago.