SAN JOSE, Calif. - An off-duty San Jose police officer on Wednesday was charged with felony assault after he allegedly punched a woman in the face during a road-rage incident, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said.
Officer George Brown, 37, was driving his Ford Explorer with a friend and family members, including a young child, when he was involved in a collision with a Ford Flex on Interstate 680 on the night of July 24, authorities said.
That collision escalated into criminal violence with Brown twice striking a woman riding in the other car, the district attorney said.
The Flex was being driven by a man, whose wife was in the passenger seat and their teenage daughter in the back.
As the two vehicles entered Interstate 280, both drivers accelerated, then braked aggressively, prosecutors said. Prosecutors also said that's when the woman in the passenger seat of the Flex threw a plastic bottle that hit Brown's Explorer.
Brown then mouthed for the driver of the Flex to pull over onto the shoulder of Interstate 680, which he did. The off-duty officer called dispatch and requested "Code 3" assistance, usually used in emergencies.
The driver of the Flex and his wife exited their vehicle, then Brown and his front passenger also got out, according to the charges.
Authorities said Brown identified himself as a San Jose police officer when without provocation, he punched the woman in the face, knocking her to the ground. When she tried to get up, Brown allegedly punched her again. That's when Brown's passenger, later identified as Erik Brunner of Redwood City, started fighting the woman's husband. Brown also joined this fight.
"It is disappointing that an officer - on or off duty - would act in such a reckless and violent way," said District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. "A higher standard of behavior is not a suggestion or a request. It is built into the badge."
Eventually, both parties got back into their vehicle and left the scene before officers arrived, the district attorney alleged.
A passing motorist in a Tesla reported the incident to police and provided recordings to investigators.
After returning to her home, the injured woman went to the hospital where she reported that she was assaulted. That information was turned over to authorities.
Brown faces charges of felony assault under the color of authority, misdemeanor battery, and misdemeanor child endangerment.