Former cop John Bonar allegedly told an independent investigator his two punches were meant to distract Marissa Morris

By Chris Harris
January 05, 2017 04:07 PM
The confrontation between Marissa Morris and Officer John Bonar

An Arizona police officer has resigned nearly two months after online video surfaced showing him punching a woman in the face during an eviction proceeding, PEOPLE confirms.

Officials tell PEOPLE that Officer John Bonar’s resignation on Tuesday comes after an independent investigation of the Nov. 16 incident.

The results of that investigation — a copy of which was obtained by PEOPLE — allegedly prompted department administrators in Flagstaff to recommend termination for Bonar, who was suspended from the job soon after his confrontation with Marissa Morris.

In the video, first posted to Facebook, the 30-year-old Flagstaff woman seems to resist Bonar’s attempts to place her in handcuffs. As she continues to fight, Bonar appears to strike Morris twice in the face, soliciting angry rebukes from nearby civilians.

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According to the investigation’s findings, Bonar had been called to Morris’ home to assist with an eviction. Thinking she had an active arrest warrant, he allegedly told investigators he tried to detain Morris.

But in fact there was no outstanding warrant for Morris. Bonar alleged she started to struggle, kicking him in his groin and knees.

Bonar allegedly told the independent investigator — Sgt. Michael O’Hagan from the Northern Arizona University Police Department — that his two punches were meant to distract Morris, according to the findings.

O’Hagan’s final report alleges Bonar said he believed Morris was under the influence of drugs during their encounter. Additionally, Bonar allegedly defended his actions, and downplayed the force of the blows.

“It wasn’t a choke, it wasn’t a strike, it was just part of the struggle of me trying to get away from her,” he allegedly said, noting the first punch yielded “the effect he wanted.” He told O’Hagan his punches packed only 30 percent of his available power.

O’Hagan concludes in his findings that Bonar’s actions did “not appear to be reasonable, or necessary to make the arrest, in accordance with Officer Bonar’s department policy or state law.”

Over the course of his investigation, O’Hagan stated he interviewed both Bonar and Morris as well as several witnesses. At least one person at the scene said Morris never made contact with Bonar, who was allegedly acting “frazzled,” according to the findings.

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Other officers who had been dispatched to the chaotic scene described his conduct as unprofessional, noting Bonar should have exerted more restraint when dealing with Morris.

O’Hagan concluded that the level of force exhibited by Bonar during the incident was not necessary to arrest Morris.

O’Hagan’s findings were initially turned over to the Coconino County Attorney’s Office, which has since transferred the entire case to the Mohave County Attorney’s Office for review.

Mohave County Attorney Matthew Smith tells PEOPLE his office only received the case file Wednesday evening. Smith’s office will eventually determine whether Bonar faces criminal charges for his conduct.

Smith would not comment on the case, citing the open nature of his office’s investigation into the Nov. 16 incident.

Morris’s attorney, Benjamin Taylor, tells PEOPLE his client has been suffering from significant “physical and emotional” distress since her encounter with Bonar. Taylor says his client is exploring possible civil litigation against the officer and the department.

“We will make sure Ms. Morris receives justice,” says Taylor. “She is not doing that well right now, as would anyone who is assaulted by a police officer. It has been a very stressful thing for her.”

Taylor adds, “I commend the NAU Police Department for doing a thorough and fair investigation. There are good officers out there, however former Officer Bonar makes their job harder. Bonar did the right thing today by resigning.”

Bonar was unavailable for comment.