A 17-year-old boy who was caught drinking with friends at the Tulsa State Fair Saturday was beaten by local sheriff’s deputies during an arrest, with one of the officers appearing to kneel on his neck, a now-viral video shows. The teen’s grandmother is speaking out and asking why police opted for such a brutal approach when arresting her grandson.
“We are very angry,” Anita Janson, the teen’s grandmother and legal guardian, told VICE News. “He’s tiny. It didn’t take all of that. We just want something done. They shouldn’t have done that to a minor.”
The video, which is just over two minutes long, shows two officers using their body weight to restrain the teen before one of them smashes his elbow onto the boy’s head, after which his body goes limp. One cop then kneels on the boy’s back, and then on what appears to be his neck. As onlookers scream, the officer, still kneeling on the teen, twists the boy’s arm so the other officer can finish handcuffing him.
“Hey! He’s a fucking kid, y’all,” the man recording the incident, Brandon Alexander, is heard saying. “What the fuck is the matter with y’all?”
The video, which has been shared on social media platforms Twitter and TikTok by the likes of civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, attracting fierce criticism from users, who say the deputies went too far when detaining the teenager.
Alexander, who was at the fair with his wife, Tiffany, said they first noticed the commotion after the crowd they were walking in stopped moving. Shortly after, the couple noticed three teens seated on the ground near the police, Tiffany said, and one of the officers yelled at one of the teens, a girl, who said she was trying to use her phone to get in touch with her mom.
“[The girl] was crying and yelling ‘Just let me call my mom,’” Tiffany said. “The officer who was with the two boys actually reached across and ripped the girl’s phone out of her hand and said, ‘No, you can call your mom later.’”
Tiffany says that’s when her husband stepped in to ask the officer why a minor shouldn’t be allowed to call her parent. It was during this time, they say, that the boy seen in the video, whose name hasn’t been released to the public, reached for a nearby plastic vodka bottle and tried to throw it.
“At that point, everything went crazy,” she said.
The deputies shoved the kid to the ground and began trying to arrest him, according to the Alexanders. This part of the interaction doesn’t appear in Brandon Alexander’s video.
A public information officer with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office told VICE News that they had already received multiple complaints from attendees at the fair who said the boy in the video was “highly intoxicated and being belligerent to citizens waiting in line at a ride.”
“During the scuffle, the suspect grabbed the groin area of a deputy,” the officer said. “He then used his fingers to twist the deputy’s flesh. The deputy responded with a use of force.”
In both Alexander’s video and a second angle of the incident posted on TikTok, it’s hard to make whether the officer’s groin was actually grabbed. But even if that happened, it doesn’t excuse the officer’s actions, the teen’s grandmother said.
“They could have just bear-hugged him and got handcuffs on him,” Janson said. “I don’t know why they slammed him to the ground and slugged him and put his knee on his neck.”
After Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd by using his knee to restrain him, in May 2020, many police departments around the country explicitly banned the move from their use of force repertoire. Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Captain Mike Moore told local ABC affiliate New Channel 8 that a knee was never placed on the boy’s neck.
“I can see how it can maybe be misconstrued that way, but no it was not," he told the outlet.
“It’s on the video,” Janson told VICE News. “Videos don’t lie.”
As officers handcuff the limp teen, Brandon can be heard trying to reason with other, bystanding officers, who do nothing to intervene.
“There were four or five officers standing around while I was filming, and we’re begging him, ‘Stop this, tell these officers to stop what they’re doing because this is unacceptable.’ And they just look at it as like, ‘oh, sorry’ and just shrugging their shoulders,” Brandon said.
The video ends with the officers standing by as onlookers continue to criticize them for their use of force. The sheriff’s officer said the teen was checked on by paramedics, who allegedly said he was fine. He was then transported to the hospital because of his level of intoxication, police say.
Janson said that the teen suffered abrasions on his right brow, and swelling in his hands and jaw. She also said that a dentist instructed the family to wait until swelling in his jaw has reduced in order to check for misalignment issues.
The sheriff’s office says they intend to present criminal charges to the Tulsa County DA’s Office, who they say will determine what, if any, charges the teen will face. As of Tuesday, the officers involved in the arrest have not been removed from active duty, nor have their names been released.
“Any other adult would be charged accordingly,” Tiffany said. “And they’re acting like that because he has a badge, that it’s OK, when he should really be held to a much higher standard than that.”
The Alexanders have started a GoFundMe on behalf of the teen’s family. Janson said that she has retained an attorney and is considering taking legal action.
“It’s unacceptable,” Brandon said. “And we’re not gonna stop until there is something done about this.”
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