The child's crime —he dropped the ball while he and his stepfather were playing catch in their backyard. The alleged assault was captured on video by a next door neighbour.
It was a scene that is played out all over North America in the spring and summer; a father playing catch with a child in their backyard. But this one was different.
After watching what was happening for about 15 minutes, next door neighbour Oscar Lopez decided he should get his cell phone and film it. He later posted the video on Facebook and YouTube and handed it over to authorities.
The man, identified as Anthony Sanchez, 34, was seen by Lopez hitting his 10-year-old stepson with a belt every time he dropped the ball. The video depicts the little boy holding the baseball and crying while Sanchez walks up to him and hits him again with a belt.
Lt. Scott Sheppeard, of the Imperial Valley Sheriff's Office, told the Imperial Valley Press that after watching the tape, officers had probable cause to make an arrest. Sanchez turned himself at 4:15 p.m. yesterday and was booked on suspicion of felony child abuse. His bail was set at $100,000.
Sanchez is an elected official and serves as a director of the Imperial Irrigation District. According to the agency's website, Lopez was first elected in 2006 and reelected in 2010. Sanchez, who works in sales and marketing, previously served on the Heber Public Utilities District board. His current term expires in December 2014.
Channel 10 News reports Sanchez is also a soccer and T-ball coach.
As to the beating, Lopez is quoted by My Fox Phoenix as saying, "It just didn't stop. It seemed like it kept going and going. I was just waiting for it to stop."
After the filming began, Lopez and Sanchez got into a verbal altercation about how Sanchez was disciplining the little boy. At one point Lopez dares the stepfather to come over and "teach me."
The 10-year-old, who was not injured, is currently in Alabama with his mother. His grandparents issued a statement defending Sanchez's actions. KSWT reports the statement read as follows, We are a family that believes spanking a child serves its purposes well. The video may seemed [sic] inflammatory but as I saw it, and knowing who Anthony is, the behind is always the target. Men who beat their kids don't care where the spanking lands. If he is guilty he is only guilty of excessive spanking and should have seen that the remedy was not working.
And Ryan Childers, Sanchez's attorney, is quoted as saying, "What I would caution people to do is not to rush to judgment and let's allow law enforcement to do their job and conduct a full thorough investigation."
It will be up to the Imperial County District Attorney's office to decide if the charge of felony child abuse will be proceeded with.