WATCH: Violent Arrest of 3 University of Alabama Students

Nov. 10, 2015

Stunning cellphone videos showing the violent arrest of three University of Alabama students have directed a harsh spotlight on the embattled Tuscaloosa Police Department for the third time in four months.

Three Tuscaloosa police officers were placed on administrative leave Monday after videos went viral that showed several officers, responding to a complaint of loud music early Sunday, drag two men and a woman from an apartment. One officer used a stun gun on a student, another beat a student with a baton.

“I am deeply disturbed and disappointed by the way our officers responded,” Chief Steven Anderson said at a news conference. “I will tell you right now that what I’ve seen I am taking very seriously.”

The names of the officers — James Kent, Phillip Champion and Gregory Pimm — were released Tuesday.

“For the safety and security of the officers and their families only their names are being released at this time,” Anderson said in a statement.

Anderson’s department is no stranger to controversy. In July, a man collapsed and died after being pepper-sprayed during an arrest. Anderson said officers attempted to revive Anthony Ware, 35, at the scene but acknowledge the response may have been slowed by suspicions that he was faking. Days later Anderson asked the FBI to conduct an independent investigation.

In August, officers responding to an assault call fatally shot Jeffory Tevis, 50, who attacked an officer with a metal spoon.

A Tuscaloosa grand jury declined to bring charges against police in either death.

Ted Sexton, a former sheriff of Tuscaloosa County who now teaches criminal justice courses at the university, said both of the recent fatalities involved officers placed in difficult situations.

“In both cases, police choices were limited and they handled the cases as best they could,” Sexton told USA TODAY.

Anderson stressed at his news conference Monday that residents should not fear his officers.

“We are here to protect and serve and do a job,” he said. “Do we always get it right? No. But there is no reason to fear us, to fear our officers.”

The incident Sunday came hours after the Alabama football team concluded an important home game, a victory over rival Louisiana State University. Celebrations ran deep into the night in Tuscaloosa, and Anderson said several police officers responded to the noise complaint because of a strong police presence in the area.

A video shows the officer at the door, arguing with one of the students. The argument heats up, with the officer finally saying “You are under arrest for harassment. Get outside now!” Moments later a scuffle takes place in the doorway, a stun gun appears to go off, and the students are dragged out. One of them, down on the ground, is beaten with a baton.

The students were arrested on various charges that included harassment, obstructing justice and resisting arrest, Anderson said. He described the charges as “pending,” so it was not clear whether they would be dropped. He said the three officers placed on leave included the first officer at the door, the officer who fire the stun gun and the officer who beat a student with a baton.

“I think obviously errors were made here,” Sexton said. “We may even see criminal charges before this is all over.”

Sexton said he was mystified by the aggressive behavior of the officers given the relatively mild complaint they were responding to — loud music.

“Law enforcement across the nation is confronting the hard fact that we need more training as far as decision-making,” Sexton said. “A bad decision with good intentions is still a bad decision.”

Anderson said the investigation of the officers will take some time while police interview witnesses and the officers involved, plus review videos. The videos will include recordings from cellphones and from body cameras of the officers that had them.

“We are asking people to be patient,” Anderson said. “This is going to take awhile. The investigation unfortunately does not move at the speed of the Internet.”


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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