SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Shoppers at Fashion Valley mall say undercover, private security officers working for retailer Neiman Marcus went too far Sunday, while apprehending a juvenile accused of shoplifting.
San Diego police say the 14-year-old girl was caught on surveillance video stealing cufflinks worth $550 from the store; but it's the video of her arrest, that has at least one witness wondering if the retailer's loss prevention security officers went too far.
Police say it was actually Nordstrom's security guards who first recognized the girl as a previous shoplifter, and then alerted Neiman Marcus when they saw her walk into that store.
Security was watching her when she allegedly stole the expensive cufflinks, and that's when two undercover security officers tried to stop her and make a citizen's arrest on the sidewalk outside.
One witness, who recorded the altercation on his cell phone, told News 8, one security guard in particular got out of hand.
""He definitely took it to a level that was not necessary, absolutely not necessary for a young girl like that," said the videographer, who asked not to be identified.
On the tape, the teenager -- who police would not identify by name -- can be heard yelling, "Let go of me now! Help me!"
After her arrest by the security guards, San Diego police officers arrived and transported her to Western Division where, according San Diego Police Lt. Andra Brown, the girl was allowed to call her mother.
Then, she was booked into juvenile hall.
Shoplifting is normally a misdemeanor, but police say the girl is facing felony robbery charges because she fought back, allegedly while in possession of the store's merchandise.
San Diego police say the girl was 5'9" tall and weighed 157 pounds. The undercover security officers told police she started yelling, kicking and hitting them when they tried to detain her.
On the tape, the girl yells, "I'm not resisting you're hurting me. Let go of me. I'm a (expletive) child. Mom!"
"The girl was obviously defenseless. She wanted her mom and nobody was there to defend her," said the man who recorded the video.
He told News 8 the girl was already handcuffed with her arms behind her back-- and in his opinion; the undercover officers appeared to be using too much force.
"I understand if you have to use force against big people, big guys that are a threat to you," he said. "But the guy got carried away definitely."
At one point, the security officer shoves the teen up against a wall, puts his hand across her mouth and throat, and finally tackles her to the ground.
"Are we done? Are we done? Yes or no?" the guard, dressed in street clothes, can be heard yelling at the girl.
"You can hear her trying to scream, but she can't because they have her mouth covered. That looks more like somebody's being kidnapped," the witness told News 8.
The undercover security officers working for Neiman Marcus appeared to back off when San Diego police arrived and took the girl into custody without incident.
Neiman Marcus issued the following statement to News 8 regarding the incident:
"Our associates were performing their duty as security officers in protecting our customers, our fellow associates and our merchandise. We prosecute shoplifters and in this incident we are cooperating fully with the local authorities."
Uniformed Fashion Valley mall security officers can be seen in the video observing the altercation, but not participating.
A spokesperson for Andrews International, which provides the uniformed security officers at Fashion Valley, said its employees are hired by the mall to patrol the common areas and parking lot; and they do not interfere with the apprehension of a suspect from a retail store unless requested.