The white campus police officer in a recent viral video where he appears to be struggling with a Black Purdue University student has been placed on leave as his department claims he has been receiving death threats since the encounter at the West Lafayette, Indiana, institution.
A minute-long video that was posted on social media shows a struggle between Adonis Tuggle, 24, and the unidentified officer in the snow on the school’s campus on Friday, Feb. 4. Cries of distress can be heard from Tuggle and a woman believed to be Tuggle’s girlfriend, who apparently is recording the encounter with her cellphone.
The woman screams, “You’re hurting him. You’re hurting him. Can you take your elbow off his f—— neck?”
Tuggle is also heard in footage saying over and over again to the cop, “You’re choking me. You’re choking me.”
“Please help. This officer won’t get off his neck,” the girlfriend shouts toward the end of the clip. “He’s taking it too far.”
While the officer’s name has not been released by the Purdue University Police Department, the Lafayette Journal & Courier newspaper identifies him as Jon Selke.
Tuggle told The Associated Press that the altercation started with an argument between him and his girlfriend that escalated to the campus cop punching him in the face and using his elbow to hold him down on the ground by the neck. It ended with him being locked up for resisting arrest.
The junior psychology major stayed in the jail for an hour and was able to bail himself out.
He told the AP that someone had called the police on them as they were arguing in public. Tuggle said they were already cooling off when Selke arrived.
Tuggle said, “I was already a couple of feet away from my girlfriend,” when the encounter with the officer started. The girlfriend also tried to reassure the cop that they were OK, but instead of accepting their protestations that there was no need for an intervention, Selke cursed at them, Tuggle claims.
“I told him he had no reason to be disrespectful,” Tuggle said. “He was yelling at her and she was yelling at him. I told my girlfriend to calm down and I heard him scream, ‘OK, buddy, you’re going down,’ and he threw me against the car.”
After this, the officer wrestled Tuggle to the ground and told him to “stop resisting.”
“He had his hand pressing my face in the snow. He was smothering me, almost as if you were trying to drown somebody underwater,” Tuggle said. “Basically, what happened to George Floyd almost happened to me, except I had an elbow, not a knee, and fortunately, I’m still breathing instead of being in a casket.”
As the girlfriend started to record the violent interaction, she tapped the officer. Tuggle alleges that the cop threatened to use his taser on her if she did it again.
Tuggle also said that when other police officers arrived, one of them held his leg down while another held his arm down.
The first statement from the university spoke directly to Chief John Cox’s decision to put the officer on leave in light of the attention and what he said were death threats surrounding the incident.
“Cox initiated the leave of absence after the officer and department received death threats. PUPD is investigating the threats,” it read.
Cox also released his own remarks separately.
First, he stated that the encounter was precipitated when a caller to police said “it appeared a woman was being held against her will near Horticulture Drive,” as described by the statement.
“Any time a PUPD officer uses force in connection with an arrest, the department conducts an internal review. PUPD commenced that review, led by Deputy Chief Lesley Wiete immediately upon receiving the officer’s report on Friday night,” the statement read.
“That investigation will, under PUPD General Orders, include input from all witnesses to the arrest and take into account all available evidence, including video from officers’ body-worn cameras and statements from the students involved. No physical injuries were suffered in the incident.”
Tuggle has secured an attorney, Andrew M. Stroth, to represent his interest in the case. Stroth stated, “We are demanding a full and transparent investigation into the excessive and unjustified attack on Adonis by the Purdue University police officer.”
“We are demanding the immediate release of all the video evidence,” he stated. “There is body camera police video that police have, that has not been shared with the family or shared publicly.”
He culminated his demands by saying, “It’s another young Black man attacked by a police officer. This took place, tragically, on a college campus. Thank God he’s OK because the officer had his elbow in Adonis’ neck. Adonis couldn’t breathe.”
The Purdue Black Student Union organized a town hall meeting to plan what their next points of action are. The hope was to come up with a solution to prevent instances like this from happening to other students, according to local station WTHR.
One student said During the meeting, “Why do Black people constantly have to justify their lives?”
Another student chimed in, “How many more videos of police putting their knees and elbow on a Black person’s neck and throat do we need to see before we realize that’s not how arrests are made?”
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels released a statement on the incident on Thursday, Feb. 10.
“There are no subjects Purdue takes more seriously than campus safety, student well-being, and proper police conduct. On Friday evening, Feb. 4, police received a bystander report of a suspected assault on a woman, prompting an officer’s urgent response,” the release started.
Daniels shared that the institution “immediately” started investigating the alleged excessive use of force by the officer by reviewing his actions and assessing the footage, interviewing the witness, and looking at “all video evidence, including body-worn and in-car camera footage.”
“Should there be a finding of misconduct by the officer, appropriate action will be taken promptly,” Daniels promised. “In the spirit of transparency, once the Purdue Police and Indiana State Police reviews are complete, all findings and evidence … will be made available.”
The president asks the public to remain patient during the investigation.
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