Two campus police officers at an historically black university in North Carolina were placed on leave after a video of the violent arrest of a college student went viral.
The incident occurred Wednesday, March 18 on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. Sophomore Verdant Julius and a group of friends were at McCain Residence Hall, a dormitory, to help each other move out after NCAT announced it was temporarily closing due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to an account written by Mantryll Williams, one of Julius’ friends, the group was asked to show their student identification cards to gain entry. After showing the cards, one of them was turned away because she didn’t live in the residence hall.
What should have been a mundane encounter became tense after Julius, who is president of the class of 2022, asked why his friend was asked to leave.
“Hearing that his friend who was there to assist him was being asked to leave, Verdant Julius asked the campus security guard and police officer for an explanation,” Williams wrote. “The officer responded to this request by saying, ‘If you take one step closer I am going to have you arrested for obstruction of an investigation.’ This was the first time the officer informed Verdant Julius and the other two students that an investigation was in progress.”
Williams filmed the arrest and posted the footage on his Twitter page. In the video, Julius calmly asks one of his friends to take his keys and wallet as two officers — one white, one Black — cuff him.
“If you resist, I’m going to mace you,” the Black officer said repeatedly.
“You’re honestly ridiculous,” Julius responded.
The officers grabbed Julius by his neck and slammed him into a wall before wrestling him to the ground. The video ends with Julius pinned to the ground as one of his friends urges him to relax. Julius was charged with resist, delay or obstruct of a public officer and trespassing, per The Winston-Salem Journal. Atlanta Black Star reached out to Julius for comment, but did not hear back. He later confirmed he was safe via his personal Twitter page.
“Thank you so much! Thank you all so much for being supportive & checking in,” he tweeted. “I honestly do not know how to feel right now about the incident, but I will be okay.”
Williams’ video has garnered more than 1.5 million views since it was posted on early Wednesday morning. Many viewers, including some NCAT students, were angered by how Julius was treated.
“Verdant is the most selfless person I know. He’s always fighting for what he believes in and does it with pride and excellence,” wrote one student. “Knowing the backstory and wondering why the hell our campus policeman have to be this way baffles me. I don’t feel safe.”
“Disgusting, I hope NCAT addresses this because the campus police have failed not only the legacy of the university, but it’s black students,” wrote one person.
“I read the backstory & this is too much! Baby boy wasn’t even resisting and was clearly planning to cooperate by asking his friend to take his stuff and was met with ‘if you resist I’m going to mace you’ and then met with aggressive grabbing,” said another viewer. “Who wouldn’t react to that??”
On Wednesday, NCAT announced the officers were removed from duty while the incident was being investigated.
“University administrators are evaluating the matter in an effort to reach an appropriate resolution,” the university said in a statement. “Further, we have met with the individual student, as well as Student Government Association leadership, to understand their concerns. Be assured that the issue of campus safety is one of our top priorities and maintaining that safe environment requires the cooperation and understanding of every member of our community.”
Williams started a petition on Julius’ behalf with three demands: he wants charges against Julius dropped; a statement condemning Julius’ treatment; and the establishment of a police review committee to oversee hiring and complaints. The officers’ names have not been released.
Atlanta Black Star contacted the campus police department, but did not receive a response.