INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A white Purdue University police officer seen on cellphone video using his elbow to pin a Black student’s neck to the ground won’t face charges because he used reasonable force when the student resisted arrest during a domestic call, a special prosecutor has found.
The student, 24-year-old Adonis Tuggle, also will not be charged in the Feb. 4 incident, even though “probable cause exists for multiple criminal charges,” Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said in a report released Monday. Tuggle’s arrest stoked anger among Black students and others on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus.
Cummings said he was honoring requests by Officer Jon Selke, Purdue representatives and “the victim” in the domestic incident that Tuggle face no criminal charges.
Separately, Purdue said in a statement Tuesday that Selke apologized to Tuggle and that school officials have agreed on steps to prevent a repeat of the incident.
Cummings said in his report that Tuggle released video recorded by his then-girlfriend that captured only the latter portion of Selke and Tuggle’s encounter. He said Selke’s police body camera footage shows Tuggle refused to comply with his orders and resisted arrest.
“Mr. Tuggle released a video that failed to depict his own behavior which necessitated police use of force. His tactic was effective in provoking passion and deflecting criticism of his behavior,” Cummings wrote in his report.
Selke responded to a call to police that a man was screaming loudly at a woman who appeared to be being held against her will. The officer found Tuggle standing near his then-girlfriend’s car with the door open and her in the driver’s seat. Tuggle had her cellphone, but he gave it to her when she requested it in Selke’s presence, the report said.
Body camera footage shows Selke asking Tuggle three times to step to the rear of the vehicle and Tuggle refusing despite being told he would face arrest if he did not comply, according to the report.
When Selke then tried to arrest Tuggle, he “actively resisted arrest and Officer Selke had the legal authority to use reasonable force,” the report said.
Selke grabbed Tuggle’s arm and handcuffed that wrist but when he turned the student’s body against the vehicle to handcuff the other wrist, Tuggle fought back, the report stated.
The officer “used reasonable force to overcome Mr. Tuggle’s resistance and avoided a potentially dangerous situation. At no time did Officer Selke choke Mr. Tuggle,” the report said.
Selke radioed twice for assistance, saying he was “in a fight,” and a second officer quickly arrived and helped secure Tuggle in handcuffs, the report said. Tuggle was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting law enforcement.
“The full investigation reveals that Officer Selke did exactly as we expect our police officers to do,” Cummings wrote. “He intervened on behalf of the victim and successfully restrained Mr. Tuggle until backup arrived without injuring him. For that, Officer Selke should be commended, not vilified.”
Purdue said Tuesday that Selke apologized in person to Tuggle and his mother, and that it planned to release redacted body camera footage in accordance with state public records law.
“Notwithstanding the legal considerations, we believe this was an incident that escalated too quickly in the distinctive context of our campus environment,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said.
“I fully acknowledge how my actions and the images of this event have called into question the safety and belonging of Purdue’s Black community. I am very sorry for that,” Selke said in the university’s statement.
Tuggle said he appreciated the opportunity to meet Selke and discuss what happened.
“We had a productive conversation, and I’m committed to working with him, the Purdue police, my fellow students, and the broader university community to forge a positive path forward,” Tuggle said.
Andrew M. Stroth, a civil rights attorney representing the Tuggle family, said his review of the case shows it is “clear Purdue does not have a record of racist policing toward students” and that the school acted swiftly to address the situation.
Purdue said it will remind the campus community about their “responsibility and the legal requirement to respect promptly and peacefully the requests of a law enforcement officer.”
An external review is planned of the Purdue police department’s use of force policy and its de-escalation training program. That will be followed by “an action plan and metrics designed to prevent a recurrence of this type of incident,” the school said.
Selke is on administrative duty but will be allowed to return to patrol after undergoing “comprehensive training, with a particular focus on de-escalation protocols,” Purdue said.
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