JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Eight police officers assigned to a security team protecting South Africa’s deputy president have been arrested and are expected to appear in a courtroom on Monday after they were caught on video kicking and stomping on two off-duty trainee soldiers having pulled their car over on a highway in Johannesburg.
Some of the plainclothes VIP protection officers were carrying assault rifles when they dragged the men out of their car and attacked them earlier this month. One of the men was kicked unconscious in the attack, which was caught on video by another motorist and shared widely on social media.
It’s unclear why the officers pulled the car over as the video only starts as they are dragging one of the men across the road.
But the officers are part of a VIP protection unit known in South Africa as the “blue light brigade” and which has a reputation for driving dangerously fast and reacting with unnecessary force if cars don’t immediately get out of their way. The unit normally operates in unmarked vehicles with blue sirens.
The officers will face charges of assault, malicious damage to property and firearm offenses, according to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, which investigates police misconduct. They were arrested on Sunday and are being held at a Johannesburg police station ahead of their court appearance, the directorate said.
The officers are all part of the security detail assigned to South African Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who was not present during the alleged assault, according to his office. Mashatile has condemned the conduct of the officers, which sparked outrage in a country that has a problem with police brutality.
The officers have also been suspended from work.
The officers are accused of assaulting three men, although the video only captures them kicking and stomping on two men while a third lies next to them. A woman who was also traveling in the car is seen on the video standing with her hands in the air as the officers attack the men.
The officers were traveling in two black SUVs and are seen getting back into their vehicles and driving away, leaving one of the men lying motionless on the side of the busy highway.
A union that represents members of the armed forces said all of the victims of the attack were in the South African army, although they were not on duty at the time.
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