A white Hamilton County, Tennessee, detective caught on camera punching and kicking a black man in handcuffs is now on desk duty as police launch an investigation into the case.
Video of the Dec. 3 incident captured by a neighbor shows Detective Blake Kilpatrick beating 24-year-old Charles Toney, punching him in the ribs and face and kicking him even as another law enforcement officer appeared to have Toney subdued and on the ground.
According to Toney’s attorney, Lee Merritt, Toney sustained a collapsed lung and broken nose, ribs, and finger as a result of the violent confrontation.
“What you can see plainly in the video, you see an officer striking a citizen, a pedestrian, a suspect repeatedly. He’s defenseless. He’s not able to defend himself,” Merritt told WCRB-TV during a FaceTime interview Tuesday.
As the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports, law enforcement were trying to arrest Toney on felony warrants likely associated with drug- and weapons-related charges Toney was indicted for a couple months prior. The video taken of Kilpatrick beating Toney appears to occur mid-arrest; Detective Kilpatrick can clearly be seen furiously striking Toney in the head several times. At one point, as another officer appears to have Toney pinned on the ground—he is facing away from both officers and clearly isn’t resisting—Kilpatrick comes back in to deliver a punch to Toney’s ribs.
According to the Free Press, Kilpatrick justified his use of force by saying Toney was reaching for a weapon, adding that Toney allegedly fought back by biting his finger and spitting at him.
Merritt—like many others—saw something totally different from what Kilpatrick claimed. “What you see happening there, without proper justification, is a crime. It’s an aggravated assault,” he told WCRB-TV.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond announced during a Monday press conference that Kilpatrick is now on desk duty as the police investigate what happened.
“Certainly, I’m always alarmed when the citizens raise a question as to our behavior as police officers,” Hammond said, according to the Free Press.
But while stating the importance of proper protocol, Hammond also tried to tell the public to not necessarily believe what was captured on the viral cell phone video.
“Any time we see something that raises suspicion, I want a thorough investigation to see, ‘Is it what it seems to be?’ Again, I caution the public. So often we only see certain portions of videotape. But the one thing is unmistakable. He was in handcuffs,” he said.
Kilpatrick is a 10-year veteran of the force and, despite the internal investigation into his actions, still managed to compete in a “Guns and Hoses” charity event for police and firefighters last Friday.