by Julius Eason
A University of Tennessee student party that spilled out into the residential area ended with a 21-year-old student being choked unconscious by a sheriff’s deputy on April 26, 2014. Jared Dotson was confronted by police for drinking in public at 23rd Street and Laurel Avenue. Witnesses say Dotson complied with the police and calmly allowed them to arrest him, while the police report claimed he resisted arrest. Freelance photographer John Messner captured Officer Frank Phillips, 47, choking Dotson with both hands, while two other police officers holding him in handcuffs. Photos show Dotson falling to his knees unconscious. After photos of the incident gained media attention, Officer Phillips was fired for excessive use of force, following an investigation. However, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Phillips has since been granted early retirement and will not face charges.
Citizens have the right to record without fear of arrest. Cameras can only be seized by police for evidence if it was being used in the commission of a crime. Warrantless seizures are allowed only if police have probable cause that there are exigent circumstances involved. Despite this, police in Lima, Ohio tased and arrested Michael Davis on April 26 when he used his mobile phone to record the traffic stop and arrest of a person on drug charges. Upon finding crack cocaine in the vehicle and arresting the man, police demanded Davis’ camera as evidence. Davis refused, saying it wasn’t his job to do the work of police, and claimed First Amendment rights in documenting police activity. After attempting to walk away, Davis was grabbed, chased down by police and tased before his phone was confiscated. Davis was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing official business, and he plans to fight the charges.
Officer Casey M. Ortiz, 34, was arrested by his own police department in Cape Coral, Florida and stands accused of a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl. A report back in February by the girl’s parents claimed their daughter was having sex with an unidentified Cape Coral police officer. The teen was interviewed and identified Ortiz as the officer involved, and he was subsequently relieved of duty. Ortiz met the teenage girl when responding to a call at her home, and authorities say Ortiz has since picked her up from her home three times in his police car. Information found in Ortiz’s mobile phone matched details the teenager provided. Ortiz was jailed in Lee County on two counts of sexual assault with a victim 16 years of age, with bond set at $50,000.
A jury has declared that criminal charges cannot be filed against a Texas police officer who tased an unarmed 17-year-old high school student. Noe Niño de Rivera remains in the hospital, having spent 52 days in a medically-induced coma that has resulted in lasting brain damage. Police were called to Cedar Creek High School in Bastrop, Texas to break up a fight between two female students. Rivera stepped in to calm one of the girls, prompting one of the deputies, Randy McMillan, to tase him. Rivera’s body slumped to the ground, his head smacking against the floor. A Texas grand jury handed in a “No Bill” ruling, meaning there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant charges against the deputies. Rivera is currently receiving care in a rehabilitation center, and the teen’s family has filed a federal civil rights suit.