A transgender woman from Ramona was stunned by a stun gun used by a Bureau of Land Management ranger in the desert near El Centro late last month.
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Angry over the incident, 43-year-old Brooke Fantelli contacted 10News and said what started out as a nice day of picture-taking in the desert ended in a nightmare.
"There's no way to put it, it's just plain out brutal, plain out brutal," said Fantelli.
In cell phone video Fantelli provided to 10News, Fantelli's hands are in the air as a BLM ranger tells her to lie down in the dirt. She told 10News she refused to do that, but did tell the ranger she would not resist being arrested. The ranger went ahead and used his Taser on her anyway. In the video, Fantelli is seen falling to the ground.
10News reporter John Carroll asked Fantelli if she wasn't resisting arrest by refusing to lie down.
Fantelli said no, and added, "I'm obviously not threatening him. My hands are well in the air. I've got plenty of money invested in myself in the area of $65,000 worth of plastic surgery, braces and other things that are important to me."
Fantelli said the ranger first accused some in her group of taking nude pictures in the desert. She denied that and said the ranger asked for everyone's ID.
Fantelli's ID dates to when she was still a man, and Fantelli said once the ranger saw that, everything changed.
"He actually looked me straight in the eye and says, 'You used to be a guy,' and I said, 'Yes, I did.' There was no way around it. I could see it in his eyes. He wanted to do that," she said of being stunned by the Taser.
Fantelli was eventually arrested for public intoxication, but she denied being drunk. She said after being stunned, the ranger switched from referring to her as "ma'am" and "miss" to "sir" and "dude."
Video showed that while Fantelli was on the ground with the ranger holding her down and an Imperial County sheriff's deputy helping, the ranger used his Taser on her again, this time in her genitalia. On the video, the ranger is heard telling her to release her wrist. But Fantelli said she instinctively protects her left wrist because it's been broken many times.
"I wasn't giving him any problem. He's got another officer there with him. All he had to do was put the handcuffs on," Fantelli said.
She said she thinks the ranger was sending her a message by directing his Taser at her genitalia.
"It was obvious. He hated me," she said.
"I thought the video was disturbing," said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.
Keenan told 10News the use of a Taser in this situation was inappropriate, at best.
"She was stating her objection to the action but not in any way resisting arrest. They could've done other things before needing to use a Taser for sure," Keenan said.
The BLM issued a statement to 10News which said their ranger acted appropriately. It also said in part: "When deploying Tasers, rangers target the subject's lower center mass, legs or back if possible. It appears the ranger targeted appropriately in this case."
A BLM representative declined to answer more specific questions from 10News and said Fantelli is free to file a complaint, which they promised would be thoroughly investigated.
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