Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., police are defending their use of excessive force on an unarmed man after they say he tried to run away after a traffic stop. According to police, on March 26, 2016, James Yarborough, a passenger in a car pulled over for a traffic stop, ran from police. Officers apprehended Yarborough and, for four minutes, not only beat him but also threatened to kill him.
In footage obtained by WBTV, Police Officer Jon Dunham can be seen placing a gun to Yarborough’s head and saying, “I’ll kill you, you understand? Give me your hand, now.” In the video, taken from two officers’ bodycams, the two officers and Yarborough struggled on the ground. Yarborough says excessive force was used.
In an interview with WBTV, Yarborough, who acknowledged that he has federal convictions for weapons possession, said that looking back, he knew he shouldn’t have run, but he said that the driver of the vehicle had a gun. He said he was in the vehicle only because the driver had picked him up after his own truck had run out of gas.
“The only thing I did wrong that day was run. That is the only thing I did wrong that day,” Yarborough told WBTV. “I regret running.”
In the video, after removing the gun from Yarborough’s head, another officer is seen threatening to “light him up” with a Taser. Eventually the number of cops holding Yarborough down increases to four. It’s only after four minutes that he’s finally handcuffed.
In telling his own version of the events in his report, Dunham stated that he believed Yarborough had a gun.
“At this point I observed him shove his hand towards his waistband. He was completely uncooperative. I believed he was reaching for a gun in an attempt to seriously hurt me or Officer Michaels; knowing that suspects are known to frequently place guns in the front if [sic] their waistbands, I drew my pistol and threatened to shoot him,” Dunham wrote.
Dunham then admitted punching Yarborough several times in the face and also using his elbow to subdue him. In the process, Dunham says, he suffered from a sprained hand.
After reviewing the case, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division said it found no wrongdoing by the officers.
“When you look completely at the totality of the circumstances, you have to ask yourself, ‘Was that reasonable in that situation?’ And, based on everything, it was reasonable,” Police Maj. Stella Patterson said. She also said that pointing the gun at Yarborough was reasonable as well because the officer thought he had a gun.
Yarborough, on the other hand, doesn’t see it that way. The charges filed against Yarborough included misdemeanor resisting a public officer, assault on an officer inflicting serious injury, and a felony charge of felon in possession of a firearm. And those were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.
As for receiving justice, Yarborough said he’s speaking out now because the department ignored his complaints, and he said he missed the deadline to appeal the internal-affairs ruling to the Civil Review Board because he never received a notice about the findings of the investigation.
Read more at WBTV.