Bakersfield Police Department responds to man arrested for assault on a peace officer at funeral

Posted at 2:58 PM, Jul 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-26 02:29:16-04

The Bakersfield Police Department responded Monday about the events that led up to the arrest of Antwan Rowel, at a funeral in Bakersfield Saturday.

The funeral was held at St. John's Church on Saturday, followed by the post gathering at Rising Star Baptist Church in SW Bakersfield immediately after. 

Sergeant Gary Carruesco said police were at both locations at the request of the mother of the man who was being buried. Carruesco said Saturday morning, she contacted BPD asking for a police presence at both events.\

"The reason she asked us to be there was because she had been receiving threats on her son's phone that there was going to be a gang-related drive by shooting at her son's funeral," said Carruesco. 

BPD said things were peaceful at the funeral, but officers noticed several known gang members in attendance wearing different gang colors. 

At the gathering immediately after they saw the same known gang members and decided to start filming who was in attendance.

"In case something happened later on down the road, we could go back and look at the video evidence and say we saw this person there and this person that way we can backtrack and hopefully generate some leads as to who is responsible," said Carruesco.

Carruesco said at one point, the mother who requested the police was trying to calm the crowd down and let them know she had requested their presence, but Carruesco said the crowd started getting heated because of the police presence and seeing the officers recording. Carruesco said in the recording, you can see the Rowel across the street and Rowel deliberately walked toward the officer and stood very close to the officer. 

"As one officer started to walk through the crowd, just videoing who was present, a gentleman walked up and got into his face, and if you see the video it looks like it's very close and he's taking pictures. The officer tells him two times to get back and he refuses, he doesn't comply and at that point, the officer thinking he's going to assault him, knocks the camera away -- the phone away -- and the incident occurs between the officer and the gentleman," said Carruesco. 

In a jailhouse interview with 23ABC, Antwan Rowel said he never heard the officer shout commands. 

"I didn't hear anything, now if they said anything i don't know --there was a lot of commotion going on and stuff," said Antwan Rowel. 

Carruesco said a very minimal amount of force was used to take the man into custody, "I think the officer used a great amount of restraint and used just the amount of force necessary to end that confrontation."

Antwan Rowl said he didn't initially comply because officers didn't tell him why he was being arrested.

"I think i should be owed an explanation why am i being put in handcuffs," said Antwan Rowel.

However, Ashanti Rowel, the sister of the man arrested said that officers were unnecessary and caused the confrontation. 

"Two officers were walking up on my brother, taking pictures so my brother pulled his phone up to take pictures back, 'so you taking pictures of me, I'm taking pictures of you.'" said Rowel. She said as the two officers approached her brother from behind, the other officer slapped the phone out of her brother's hand. 

"So when he bends to pick his phone up, that's when all four get on top of him and start hitting him and stuff," said Rowel. 

Rowel said as others tried to video tape the incident police continued hitting phones out of people's hands who were recording. 

"I would say they disturbed the funeral, they disturbed the peace," said Rowel. 

Rowel said she is preparing all the videos and witness statements for her brother's lawyer to use. 

Rowel is set to be in court on Tuesday, he has been arrested and booked on two felony counts and three misdemeanors including resisting arrest, assaulting a peace officer and violating probation.