Two North Carolina police officers have been suspended pending an investigation into an incident partially caught on video that showed officers repeatedly punching a Black man after he tripped and fell to the ground.
According to the officers, the man ran from them after they were called to the scene over a disturbance, but if recent stories like that of Daunte Wright should have taught cops anything by now, it’s that a suspect running from them is not an acceptable justification for excessive use of force.
The Washington Post reports that the incident was filmed by a woman from her car Monday in Kinston, N.C., and posted to her Facebook page. The officers involved in the altercation have been identified by Kinston Police Chief Tim Dilday as McKinley Jones and Kevin Page. The man who is either a victim or a suspect depending on who’s telling the story has been identified as 36-year-old David Lee Bruton Jr.
The video was taken from a distant vantage point so it isn’t easy to make out what all happened. All that can be seen clearly is Bruton falling to the ground and police officers punching him and struggling with him.
According to the Post, the incident began when a woman called the police and reported that Bruton threatened to slap her around 6 p.m. Monday.
The Kinston Free Press reports that the officers said they spoke with the woman who called them and then canvassed the area looking for Bruton. They said that when they found him he started to run away and then stopped and took an “aggressive fighting stance” before running away again.
The officers also claimed that after Bruton fell to the ground, he kicked one of them in the stomach. Bruton was arrested and taken to the Kinston Police Department headquarters to be processed then later to the Lenoir County Magistrate where he was “placed under a $500 secured bond and charged with intimidation, simple assault and disorderly conduct,” the Free Press reports.
“The Kinston Police Department is aware of a partial video from earlier this evening involving officers while responding to a call for service located at 111. W. Vernon Avenue,” the KPD wrote in a statement posted to its Facebook page. “We are currently investigating the incident that occurred in the video. The Kinston Police Department is conducting a thorough review of all evidence related to this incident.”
According to the Free Press, Councilman Robert “Robbie” Swinson IV said that he saw the footage recorded by the witness and that it doesn’t tell the whole story.
From the Free Press:
The two unnamed officers were both wearing bodycams, one appeared to have fallen off during the pursuit while a second body camera did not have footage of the initial contact between the officers and Bruton, Swinson said.
“If we had all of the camera footage, I would be inclined [to release it] so we could give transparency, but bits and pieces I don’t know because someone can take a bit of that and run with it,” Swinson said. “I would prefer to have all footage.”
Meanwhile, Kinston Mayor Dontario Hardy said the officers used a police tactic on Bruton that he described as “closed-fist strikes”—or what the literal rest of the world calls punches.
Kinston Mayor Pro Tem Felicia Solomon took a more sensitive approach to address the incident saying that the “video that you saw, that I saw and that members of the community have seen, the response has been the same, it is very disturbing,” and promising that it would be investigated thoroughly.
Bruton’s mother, Cynthia Bruton, told reporters that while her son didn’t sustain any major injuries during the altercation, she still demands “consequences” for the officers’ actions.
“We are really grateful to God that he is alive,” she said. “Because he could’ve been one of those taken out by police but he was not. Just looking at the video last night, one would have thought he was beaten to a pulp, but as far as we know, he’s OK. We still have not seen him.”