In a video taken on a cell phone, exactly one minute and 14 seconds elapsed before a Wake Forest police officer used his expandable baton to shatter the driver’s side window of Maria Carmen del Rendon’s sport utility vehicle.

Wake Forest police chief Jeff Leonard defended the officer and a second cop who yanked Rendon out of her SUV and took her down to the ground alongside a busy highway.

Rendon was hit with a battery of charges after she refused to open her door and allow police to detain her son for questioning.

In the days that followed, a video of the October 15 confrontation, originally posted by TikTok user @biancaibarra48, went viral. Rendon isn’t talking to the media. It’s not clear what the TikTok poster’s relationship is to Rendon and her family.

Leonard, in a press release, explained that his officers wanted to detain her juvenile son, who was wanted on charges of felony strangulation, and that the police were forced to react in a situation that was entirely avoidable.

“None of this would have happened had Ms. Rendon not recklessly fled the scene endangering the lives of her young passengers and motorists in the area and had she exited her vehicle when officers repeatedly asked her to do so,” Leonard said. “Most of our residents offer no resistance during the calls we respond to, but unfortunately in this case we met resistance at every turn from Ms. Rendon and the male suspect.”

In a separate statement released by the Town of Wake Forest, described as a police effort “to add more to video of driver’s removal from vehicle during Friday traffic stop,” Leonard noted that before his officers were seen on video, Rendon drove off and “came close to striking an officer with her vehicle before running a stop sign and nearly colliding with an oncoming tractor trailer.”

Police charged Rendon with resisting a public officer, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, driving while her license was revoked, and aggressive driving, according to arrest warrants filed in Wake County District Court.

But even though Leonard says Rendon “came close to striking an officer,” she was not charged with assault on a law enforcement officer.

Leonard noted that his officers were investigating accusations that Rendon’s son had strangled a 14-yearold girl, and “the male suspect refused to cooperate.”

Rendon’s family spoke with the INDY this week and added context on her behalf. One family member said the police officer who first approached her in the neighborhood where she lives would not tell her why they wanted to detain her son. Rendon had also insisted on being present when the officers questioned her son.

Juveniles have the right to have a parent or guardian present while being questioned by police, according to state law.

The Wake Forest Police Department’s 21-page use-of-force policy outlines definitions of resistance and when the use of force is authorized. It also includes a section on when it is appropriate for an officer to de-escalate a potentially volatile encounter with a citizen, instead of escalating the situation by resorting to actions such as breaking their car window.

After listing the authorization of force to prevent assault, injury, serious physical injury, the threat of harm, and death, the policy notes that “where circumstances and time reasonably permit, an officer(s) shall take reasonable and prudent actions which operate to mitigate the immediacy of the threat thereby giving the officer(s) time to call more officers, utilize other tactics, or request specialty assistance, such as crisis negotiators.”

Leonard says it was just after two thirty p.m. when officers stopped Rendon’s SUV, after she had turned out of her neighborhood on Plott Hound Lane and onto NC 98. The video, a little over 13 minutes long, begins with an officer whose last name, Minor, is emblazoned on his uniform. He tells Rendon to open the door on the passenger side of the SUV. “No, no,” Rendon answers. “You can come this way.”

Minor then tells her while wielding the baton, “You’re gonna open the door, or I’m gonna open it with my stick.”

Rendon is reportedly on the phone with an attorney and explains what is happening. Meanwhile, Minor whips the retractable baton down, causing it to expand.

“Open the door now,” he says. “I don’t want to break your window.” Along with her 15-year-old son, Rendon’s 13-year-old daughter and two younger children are in the SUV.

“You’re gonna break the passenger window?” she asks.

Minor nods while saying again, “Open the door.”

“Where my children are? Are you serious?” Rendon asks. One of the smaller children in the back seat starts to whimper.

Minor smiles and crosses over to the driver’s side of the SUV, where he tells her, “Ma’am, step out of the car.” The officer adds, “You have a choice, you either step out of the car or I break your window and pull you out.”

He then tells her she has to five to open the door. A voice can be heard over the phone telling Rendon to ask the officer to slow down.

Minor never reaches five. He gets to three, backs up, and uses the baton to smash the SUV window.

“He just broke my window,” Rendon yells. “He just broke my window with all [of] my children in the car.”

Rendon’s smaller children scream and cry.

“Let her go!” Rendon’s older daughter yells as Minor and Officer S.C. Stone pull her mother out of the SUV. The officers take Rendon down to the asphalt road. For about eight seconds, one of Minor’s hands is clasped around Rendon’s neck. Stone has pinned the woman’s legs.

“Let me go, I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” she yells.

“You can breathe,” Minor tells her while moving his hand away from her neck. “Relax.”

Later, while handcuffing her son, Minor can be seen jerking the teen’s handcuffed wrists upward near his shoulder blades.

“You’re twisting my arm,” the teen tells the officers. His younger sister starts crying. The smaller siblings wail in terror.

At least 11 more minutes pass in the video, showing the children standing along the side of the road, waiting for an adult to drive them home. The older child tries to calm her younger siblings, repeating, “Stop crying.”

Rendon, who had a bruise under her eye in her jail photo from when she was booked, was placed under a $3,000 bond, according to a release order. She is declining comment publicly.

The Wake-Wendell branch of the NAACP did not return emails and phone calls to its office last week.

Town commissioners Bridget Wall-Lennon, Adam Wright, and Chad Sary and Mayor Vivian Jones all declined comment because the incident is still under investigation.

Richard Keith Shackleford, a Wake Forest attorney who is a candidate in the town commissioners’ race, offered guarded comments. “I respect our citizens too much to jump to conclusions, and I respect the police department,” said Shackleford, who has practiced law for the past 25 years, first as a defense attorney and now as an estate attorney.

“I want to see more facts.” 

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