By Victoria Cavaliere
June 9 (Reuters) - Authorities in a Central California city are investigating whether police used excessive force when they struck an assault suspect with batons while subduing him in an incident captured on cell phone video and posted on the Internet, officials said on Tuesday.
The suspect, identified as 28-year-old Jose Velasco, had been assaulting his mother on a city street in Salinas, about 110 miles south of San Francisco, when officers used batons and Tasers to gain control of the situation, the police chief said.
A passing motorist caught Friday's incident on video and posted it to YouTube. The video, which has logged tens of thousands of views, comes amid a wider national debate about policing tactics and use of force following a string of deadly encounters between officers and unarmed black and Hispanic men.
The images of officers beating Velasco were horrific but captured out of context, Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin told a Monday news conference.
"The video alone is horrific and inflammatory," he said. "Anybody who looks at that video without context would have concerns, because it looks terrible."
Salinas had been attacking his own mother in public just moments before the confrontation with police, pushing her into traffic and slamming her into the pavement, police said in a statement.
"As the officers tried to get Velasco off of his mother by pulling him away, Velasco began to violently resist and attacked the officers," it said.
Officers used batons to subdue Velasco, who admitted he was high on methamphetamine, the police chief said. Other officers responded to the scene, and Velasco was accused of trying to grab an officer's Taser and bite a paramedic.
At the hospital, Velasco was "chemically restrained," the release said.
Velasco, who suffered injuries to his legs, was booked on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assault on an officer, along with other charges. It was not immediately known if he had obtained an attorney.
A spokeswoman for the police chief said on Tuesday an investigation into the use of force was under way. The officers involved have not been suspended.
Some community members said they were disturbed by how police handled the situation.
"We don't know the whole outline of it, again, the police doing their job, but when you see it on film or on YouTube it's just like, 'Wow, that's a beatdown," activist Raul Tabia told KSBW-TV. "It kind of raises concerns." (Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)
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