SAN DIEGO - A distraught woman whose house was on fire -- and who was being pulled away from the fire by her husband -- had her hair pulled by a San Diego police officer in a videotaped incident that prompted an internal police investigation on Sunday.
San Diego police Lt. Andra Brown told U-T San Diego that "due to allegations arising from this incident, we are conducting an internal investigation into the matter," and because it was a personnel matter police could not make further comment.
The video, which was filmed by an editor for the Imperial Beach Patch, appears to show the officer trying to pull the woman's head to the street moments after she flailed and her open hand had passed within inches of the officer's face.
The incident occurred late Friday afternoon outside the smoldering house in the 2000 block of Ilex Avenue in Nestor.
The video appeared to show the officer, identified as San Diego police Officer Daniel McLaughlin, grabbing Torazzi Hayslett and pulling her back as she took off toward a group of firefighters outside the burning home.
A man identified by the publication as Hayslett's husband Alex grabbed ahold of his wife, who appears to swing her open hand repeatedly at the officer. It was unclear if she made contact.
After that, McLaughlin grabs the woman's hair, appearing to try to take her to the ground.
"He's operating on a lot of emotion because someone just took a swing at him, but I think you have to try and put yourself into the mind of someone whose house is burning down and realize they may not be in the state you hope they are," said former El Cajon police officer Kevin LaChapelle, who now works mentoring at-risk youth.
He said Hayslett is partly to blame as well.
"She clearly made a mistake trying to take a swing at a police officer," LaChapelle said. "You absolutely never do that even when emotions are flying. You have to control yourself."
Hayslett, a teacher, told the newspaper she believed the officer overreacted and she was in the process of hiring an attorney.
LaChapelle also said McLaughlin could have and should have handled the situation differently.
"It's best to maybe yell for an officer, 'Officer, come here and take care of this woman' and then he goes and handles something else," said LaChapelle. "That way, he positions himself in a much better place to handle this more objectively."
This is not the first time McLaughlin has faced accusations of improper conduct from a citizen. In March 2009, homeless advocate David Ross sued McLaughlin, saying the officer tackled him and kicked him. A jury found McLaughlin guilty of unreasonable conduct and awarded Ross $4,000 in damages that covered his medical bills.