A handcuffed woman was ejected from a moving Los Angeles Police Department patrol car, in a dramatic incident that left her seriously injured and raised questions about the involved officers' version of how the fall occurred.
In the early morning hours on March 17, after a night out in Koreatown, 28-year-old Kim Nguyen and two friends were waiting in a restaurant parking lot for a sober friend to pick them up, Nguyen said in an interview with The Times.
A pair of LAPD officers drove by in a marked patrol car, stopped, and approached Nguyen, she said.
After briefly questioning Nguyen and her two male friends, the officers left, but circled back, as Nguyen was running across the street toward a late-night cafe.
In a lawsuit filed against the LAPD, the officers are identified by their last names and first initials. Department records show two officers assigned to the LAPD's Olympic division, which patrols Koreatown, match the names. They are David Shin, who joined the force in 2010, and Jin Oh, who has been a cop since 2008.
The officers could not be reached for comment.
Nguyen, a few months away from receiving a graduate business degree from Loyola Marymount University, was handcuffed and placed in the back of the patrol car. Nguyen said she recalls one of the officers telling her she was being taken into custody for public intoxication.
Nguyen said that she heard her friends asking the officers where she was being taken, but that the officers would say only that her friends would need to call the Police Department to locate her.
As the officers traveled east along Olympic Boulevard, a surveillance camera on a nearby building recorded video showing the vehicle approaching the intersection at Grand Avenue at 3:08 a.m., according to Nguyen's attorney, Arnoldo Casillas, who provided a copy of footage he said came from the surveillance camera.
Seconds later, the surveillance camera pans a few feet and shows Nguyen lying in the street, apparently still handcuffed and with the top of her dress down around her waist and blood visible on her head and face.
She appears in the video to be unconscious for a few minutes as the officers stand over her and one bends down to examine her. She then begins to writhe around. Paramedics arrive within minutes
Nyugen said she does not remember falling out of the patrol car, but said that she did not attempt to open the door and that said she could not have done so because she was handcuffed.
The video also shows a lone officer in another LAPD vehicle arriving and stopping at the intersection about 30 seconds before the car with Nguyen arrived. As the car with Nguyen approached, the officer driving the second patrol car pulled in behind the one with Nguyen, as if to follow, the video shows.
Nguyen and her attorney said her jaw was shattered and that she suffered bleeding on her brain. To perform the first of three surgeries on her jaw, doctors kept Nguyen heavily sedated for days, she said. She also lost several teeth.
In a report on the incident reviewed by The Times, the paramedics said the police officers claimed the officer driving came to a stop at the intersection and that Nguyen fell out of the car as it accelerated to about 10 mph.
The video, however, shows the patrol car traveling at what appears to be a much faster speed and passing through the intersection without stopping or slowing.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said it was not immediately known whether an internal investigation had been opened into the incident, but said one now would be.
The back doors to patrol cars, Smith said, are equipped with special locks that officers are supposed to engage when transporting a suspect.
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