Fresno police officer on leave after being charged with child abuse

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An arrest warrant has been issued for a Fresno police officer facing charges of child abuse. Jesse Ruelas has already been put on paid administrative leave with the department. His latest assignment was as a school resource officer.

Ruelas is facing one misdemeanor count of corporal injury to a child. According to police reports he hit the victim repeatedly while he was driving on the freeway.

According to court records, the investigation into child abuse began at the Fresno Children's Medical Group after a child was brought in by her grandmother. The medical staff determined she suffered a "mild concussion" and called police.

The victim told detectives Jesse Ruelas began hitting her after she brought up the fact it had been a year since he separated from his wife. The victim is a relative of Ruelas'.

The police report says "He began to yell and slam his fist onto the middle console."

Ruelas was driving at the time and the victim was seated directly behind him. Documents show "Jesse swung his right hand backward and struck the victim behind her right ear with the heel of his right palm twice."

ABC30 Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi says the circumstances described in the report and medical findings warrant criminal charges.

Capozzi explained, "The fact that the young girl has some bit of a concussion, to me that's bodily injury and that normally is a felony if you inflict bodily injury on another person, that's a felony. I'm surprised this was not filed as a felony."

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer issued a statement to Action News saying, "We are conducting an internal affairs investigation and he has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation."

Court records also show after he hit her twice, "Jesse moved in his seat so he could reach further back and struck her two more times."

Capozzi says it appears Ruelas acted out of anger and the outburst was not discipline related.

Capozzi added, "Keep in mind there are three children in the car if something were to happen while he is trying to hit the victim, it could have been a serious consequence for those in that car and someone else on the highway."

Ruelas has been an officer for more than 18 years. Once he is arrested, and posts bail, he will be given a court date and then arraigned.

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