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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The FBI announced it is investigating Los Angeles police after viewing a videotape that shows officers repeatedly beating a suspect in the face while he cries out that he cannot breathe.
William Cardenas, 23, a gang member, was wanted on a felony warrant for receiving stolen property, police said. On August 11, officers Patrick Farrell and Alexander Schlegel recognized him and chased him. Cardenas ran.
When they tried to arrest Cardenas, the police say, Cardenas struggled. (Watch the controversial video showing how officers arrested a man -- 0:43 )
"The officers were able to knock Cardenas to the ground ... after a struggle, the officers arrested Cardenas," according to a police statement.
But Cardenas' attorney, Kwaku Duren, told CNN her client did not use any force when resisting arrest, and said he only struggled because one of the officers had a knee on his neck and he could not breathe. (Watch how video of police beating has sparked community fury -- 2:39 )
Cardenas was sought on the warrant because he had failed to appear in court on a misdemeanor stolen property charge, Duren said. He wasn't in court because he could not leave his job during the day, the attorney added.
A "preliminary investigation" has been opened into the incident, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. It is standard procedure in any case involving possible civil rights violations, she said. The FBI's findings will be passed on to the Justice Department, she said.
The LAPD's internal affairs division is also investigating the arrest, the department confirmed Thursday.
Farrell and Schlegel have been assigned to administrative duties.
The officers mentioned using force to arrest Cardenas in the arrest report, including "a description of Officer Farrell striking Cardenas' face," police said. Following department policy, sergeants investigated the reported use of force and interviewed witnesses who recalled seeing the struggle.
"The involved officers and the investigating supervisors were not aware that an uninvolved witness recorded part of the arrest on a video camera," police said.
The footage was first made public September 14 at Cardenas' preliminary hearing on charges of resisting arrest and the felony warrant, police said. The stolen property charge, which Cardenas initially faced, was dropped, his attorney told CNN.
He is now charged with two counts of using violence or threat of violence to prevent an officer from performing their duty, Duren said.
Prosecutors gave the video to the LAPD, which initiated the department's investigation.
"Police work is not always pretty," Police Chief William Bratton said in the statement. "But in my 36 years of law enforcement, I've learned not to make a judgment until I have all the facts."
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