A Tennessee Sheriff’s office has fired a deputy whose excessive actions against a compliant detainee were photographed and circulated on the Internet over the weekend. The pictures appear to show the deputy methodically choking a handcuffed University of Tennessee student until the young man drops unconscious to his knees.
Knox County, Tenn. Sheriff J.J. Jones fired deputy Frank Phillips, a 24-year veteran of the department, after British publication the Daily Mail published pictures that freelance photographer John Messner had taken of the incident.
In the photos, 21 year-old student Jarod Dotson is shown standing in handcuffs next to the 47 year-old Phillips, who reaches up to apply force to Dotson’s throat. Dotson never appears to resist any of Phillips’ actions – indeed, he never even appears to take a step until his body begins to buckle as he loses consciousness. Dotson was allegedly among several unruly partygoers in the Fort Sanders area of Knoxville Saturday, where police responded at a massive party at a private residence and reportedly were greeted by an undisclosed number of intoxicated students throwing beer bottles.
It’s not known whether Dotson was among those who allegedly taunted the deputies. But it’s clear from the photographs that he had been safely subdued by the deputies when Phillips began choking him. The images of Phillips’ handling of Dotson, as well as the photographer’s eyewitness account, are not consistent with the police report, which alleges Dotson “began to physically resist officers’ instructions.”
Sheriff Jones did not delay action, firing Phillips Sunday and placing two other deputies on administrative leave while the department conducts an investigation.
“In my 34 years of law enforcement experience, excessive force has never been tolerated,” said Jones, who’s up for reelection this year, in a statement to media. “After an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, I believe excessive force was used in this incident. Therefore, Officer Phillips’ employment with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office is terminated immediately. The investigation will now be turned over to the Knox County Attorney General’s Office to determine any further action.”
Dotson, who was charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest, and was freed after posting a $500 bond Sunday morning.