San Diego, CA — Robert Branch was on his way to his job as a security guard last week when he crossed paths with a San Diego Sheriff’s detective, who was also on his way to work.
In an interview with 10 News, Branch said that the incident began as Detective Paul Ward attempted to run him off the road in an apparent incident of road rage.
According to Ward, however, Branch was driving erratically and at a high rate of speed.
As Branch slowed down in traffic, Ward began to follow him, and the two stopped in a driveway on Lambda drive.
If Branch was speeding, he should have been given a citation. Instead, the plainclothes detective became physical.
Ward, being skeptical of the man claiming to be an officer, who was not in uniform nor a patrol car, simply asked for an on-duty uniformed officer to come to the scene.
At this point, Branch started filming.
Ward claims that Branch “became agitated, uncooperative and refused to comply with Detective Ward’s request.” Ward said that he could not see the man’s hands and may have had a can of pepper spray in the other hand that wasn’t holding a camera, so he had no other option but to stop the man from breathing.
Ward then applied, what he refers to as a “department-approved carotid-restraint,” otherwise known as a chokehold.
“He was standing there, waiting for a uniformed officer. He was not attempting to leave the scene,” said attorney Marc Kohnen. “He was not doing anything that would cause Officer Ward to be fearful for his own safety nor the safety of persons around.”
The carotid-restraint completely prevented Branch from being able to breathe. Branch thought he was going to die. In the video, we can hear Branch struggling to take in air.
After fearing for his life, the non-violent, non-threatening Branch was subdued by the officer. He was taken to the hospital and then booked on charges of suspicion of resisting an officer and reckless driving.
It is entirely possible that Branch was driving erratically and speeding, however, the resultant situation was avoidable and seemed to be escalated by this officer. It is also entirely possible that Ward was in the midst of an uncontrollable fit of road rage and abused his authority to enact punishment on his target of this rage.