This seems to be a story of a law enforcement department that does, indeed, see itself as the servant of society, not as the master. That is surprising in itself. But it is more surprising because this was a situation in which the deputies claimed they were forced to deal with resistors. Despite 22 years with the department, the offender was fired within 24 hours of the incident. WATE reports:
The Knox County Sheriff’s Office says they have fired the deputy involved in Saturday night’s block party in Fort Sanders.
Frank Phillips, 47, has been with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office since 1992.
John Messner, a freelance photographer, seems to have made all this happen. He took photographs of Phillips grabbing Jarod Dotson by the neck and squeezing hard and long enough for Dotson to fall to his knees. Messner also testified he did not see Dotson resist. According to the Washington Times:
WBIR reports that law enforcement responded to a “disturbance” near the University of Tennessee where a house party with about 800 people had reportedly become unruly and spilled out into the street.
According to a police report, Dotson ignored repeated instructions to go inside, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. Deputy Brandon Gilliam wrote in the official report that Dotson “began to physically resist officers’ instructions to place his hands behind his back, and at one point grabbed on to an officer’s leg.”
Messner, a freelance photographer who documented the incident, told The Washington Post that Dotson showed no signs of resisting arrest.
Messner’s still pictures, arranged by The Post in the GIF below, show two officers cuffing Dotson’s hands behind his back when Phillips came over and choked Dotson until he collapsed to his knees. Messner said that as Dotson was being pulled up he was smacked in the back of the head, “a snap-out-of-it kinda smack under the circumstances.”
The big lesson here is how important it is for people to have their right to video or photograph police recognized by the courts and the government. If it hadn’t been for those photographs, Philips would be free to commit other acts of brutality under the color of law.
Addendum: I believe at least one of the stories I linked mentions that the evidence is being turned over to a D.A. or prosecutor to consider charges. I was so focused on the firing that I forgot to mention that. Now, after reading some of the comments, I realize that was an important detail to include!