FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --A now-former Fresno police officer on trial for child abuse says he's lost his job and his family as a result and blames vindictive family members.
Jesse Ruelas testified in his own defense Friday. Prosecutors say he's minimizing the violence.
Ruelas doesn't deny hitting the teenage girl who was sitting behind him in his truck.
"I went back like this," he testified as he demonstrated reaching back behind him.
"You reached back?" defense attorney Roger Wilson asked him.
"Yes," Ruelas said.
"And did you even make contact with her the first time?" Wilson asked.
"Yes I did," Ruelas said.
But he denies he intended to hurt her and says he didn't do it like two witnesses described it.
A boy says Ruelas turned around to get a better shot. The girl says Ruelas hit her four times near the temple, and pretty hard.
And she told investigators the bulky cop didn't think he could possibly get in trouble for it.
"(His) response was he could hit her wherever he wanted with whatever he wanted as hard as he wanted as long as it was for discipline?" asked prosecutor Nicole Galstan.
"That's what she told me," said Fresno police officer Douglas Cox, who interviewed the 14-year-old girl after she reported the abuse.
Doctors diagnosed the girl with a mild concussion the next day. Ruelas was arrested by members of his own department a few months later.
He says the whole situation is being drummed up by a former family member with whom he had a falling out. He says the girl seemed coached to give him grief and it all came to a head that day.
They shouted at each other as they were driving and she just wouldn't let it go.
"When I told her I'm not going to discuss the issues with her, she told me 'You're going to discuss it because I hate your ***ing guts,'" Ruelas said.
Closing arguments could come as soon as Tuesday. Ruelas faces no more than a year in jail if he's convicted.
He is fighting to get his job back, but he's also charged in another case, including a felony count of illegally possessing an assault weapon after he was ordered to give up his guns.