A Cop Who Went Viral for Punching a Teen Quietly Got His Job Back

Rancho Cordova Police Department Deputy Brian Fowell appealed his termination almost immediately and has now been reinstated.
A Cop Who Went Viral for Punching a Teen Quietly Got His Job Back
Screenshot of bystander video showing Rancho Cordova deputy Brian Fowell punching a 14-year-old. 

A California police officer fired in 2020 after being caught on video repeatedly punching a 14-year-old boy is back on the force.

Rancho Cordova Police Department Deputy Brian Fowell appealed his termination almost immediately and has now been reinstated after an independent judge within the department, known as an arbitrator, ruled that firing him wasn’t warranted. 

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to the Sacramento Bee that it will comply with the arbitrator's decision to reinstate the officer and is actively working to transition him back into his old job. (Since 2003, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office has worked in conjunction with the smaller Rancho Cordova Police Department to provide law enforcement services in the sister city.)

“The sheriff’s office was entitled to take Deputy Fowell out of the public spotlight for a while,” Fowell’s attorney, William Creger told the Bee, which first broke the story. “The arbitrator said [Fowell] didn’t do everything perfectly, he could’ve handled it in a different way, but it didn’t need to rise to the level of termination.”

Fowell was fired following an investigation into the brutal video by the department’s professional standards unit. 

In the video, Fowell can be seen straddling the 14-year-old in an attempt to arrest him on suspicion of selling tobacco underage, according to police. The officer appears to have trouble trying to flip the teen onto his stomach so he could be handcuffed. After pushing down on his head, Fowell throws three punches, one to the chest and two to the stomach, before forcefully flipping him over.

The person presumably recording the video can be heard asking Fowell to stop hitting the teenager. At the time of the video, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office said the encounter became physical after the teen gave the officer false information regarding his identity and resisted arrest.

The video has garnered millions of views on social media, including from Vice President Kamala Harris, who was a Democratic presidential candidate at the time.

“This is a horrific abuse of power,” Harris tweeted. “This officer must be held accountable.”

Fowell’s formerly clean record as a deputy, however, played a part in the officer’s successful appeal, according to the Bee. A year before the brutal arrest, Fowell was given a life-saving medal for successfully performing CPR on a young girl and was also named “Employee of the Quarter” by his employer.

But his accolades weren’t enough to shelter him from scrutiny from top brass within his department office.

“I have viewed the video that is circulating and as a chief of police and a mom I have many of the same concerns that have been expressed since the release of the video on social media,” then-Rancho Cordova Police Department Chief Kate Adams said that the time.

“It raises real safety concerns for the client who’s been nervous about this officer and hopes that he doesn’t have the chance to see him,” the teenager’s attorney John Burris said in a statement provided to VICE News. “At the end of the day, I hope the officer has been retrained on how to deescalate situations, particularly when he’s dealing with teenagers who are involved with minor transgressions. His conduct in this case was over the top and clearly did not give consideration that this was a young person.”

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment.

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