Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville Police Department is facing criticism after a video was posted to social media showing one of its officers punching a man multiple times during an arrest on Tuesday night.

In a video posted to multiple social media platforms this week, two officers responding to a domestic disturbance call in a Watsonville neighborhood can be seen standing behind Antonio Zepeda, 39, who is on his knees facing away from the officers with his hands behind his back.

Then, one of the officers tries to push Zepeda down on his stomach with his knee. The second officer then jumps in to help the first officer wrestle Zepeda down and a third officer enters the frame to attempt to grab Zepeda’s legs. As the first officer loses control of Zepeda, the second officer begins punching him. The officer throws at least three punches before the video cuts out.

A second video shows the officers continuing to wrestle with Zepeda, who is now on his back. One officer uses a TASER on Zepeda as the other two attempt to constrain him before that video ends.

A person can be heard saying “don’t push him” as the first officer tries to push Zepeda down. Then, multiple people can be heard yelling at the officers as the second officer starts punching Zepeda.

In a statement issued Wednesday, WPD said it was aware of the video, and that the incident was under review.

The statement also stated that the video only showed “a small glimpse of the officers’ interaction with the suspect.”

“Any time there are serious concerns over our officers’ actions, we investigate and share as much information with you as possible,” the statement read.

According to WPD, officers were responding to a domestic disturbance call around 6:30pm on the 400 block of Chappel Road. The caller said Zepeda punched his brother in the head and then pushed his mother, WPD said. Zepeda then left the home before officers arrived, but returned armed with a knife and tried to reenter the home less than an hour later.

He was arrested for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant and resisting arrest, according to police logs. He was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail on $2,500 bail.

He did not appear to have a weapon when officers arrested him in the video.

WPD’s social media posts received more than 120 comments as of Thursday afternoon. Some thanked the department for its transparency, and others asked for the department to release body cam footage from the arrest.

WPD spokeswoman Michelle Pulido said she could not say on Thursday whether the department would release the body cam footage.

[This story was updated at 1:30pm on July 22 after an extended video of the incident was shared with this publication. — Editor]

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Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.


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