A Purdue University police officer was placed on leave after a video showed he pinned a Black student to the ground.
Adonis Tuggle, 24, repeatedly yelled, “You’re choking me!” while his girlfriend recorded the encounter.
The university police department said the officer is on leave after he and the department received death threats.
A police officer at Purdue University was placed on a leave of absence after a viral video showing his pinning a Black student to the ground sparked scrutiny across campus and online.
Adonis Tuggle, 24, told the Associated Press that the officer punched him and pinned him to the ground, putting his elbow on Tuggle’s neck. In viral footage captured by Tuggle’s girlfriend, Tuggle can be heard yelling, “You’re choking me!” during the February 4 arrest.
The officer, who was not identified by the department, was placed on leave “after the officer and department received death threats,” a statement said. It did not elaborate on the nature of the threats but said it was “investigating” them.
The PUPD did not immediately return Insider’s request for additional comment Saturday.
The incident on Purdue’s campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, was instigated after a bystander called police that evening, reporting a woman “was being held against her will,” according to a statement from the university.
Tuggle’s attorney, Andrew M. Stroth, told Insider that Tuggle and his girlfriend were arguing at the time of the incident.
“Someone nearby I think thought it was more serious than it was, and so they called the police,” Stroth said. “Then the police came, one officer by himself, and literally just started yelling at Adonis, yelling at his girlfriend, and the next thing you know, he’s taking him down and beating him up and trying to choke him.”
In the video Tuggle’s girlfriend yells at the officer, “You’re hurting him!” and “Take your elbow off his neck!” She tapped the officer on the arm, at which point he threatened to use a Taser on her.
“Adonis couldn’t breathe. Adonis was in fear of his life,” Stroth told Insider.
Tuggle was charged with resisting arrest and booked in Tippecanoe County Jail before he bailed himself out on a $250 bond, the Lafayette Journal & Courier reported. Stroth called the charges “bogus” and demanded they be dropped. Tuggle’s family called for an immediate investigation and for the release of the officer’s body camera footage.
Hundreds of students gathered at a February 10 town hall, calling for changes to university police, the Journal & Courier reported. University President Mitch Daniels said the “inquiry into the police officer’s handling of the situation will be swift and thorough.”
“Should there be a finding of misconduct by the officer, appropriate action will be taken promptly,” Daniels said in a statement. “We ask for your patience as the investigation moves forward and again, will communicate findings as soon as they are available.”
In a letter to Daniels, Tuggle’s mother, Cornelia Dawson, demanded he “do everything within your power to hold the Purdue University police officer accountable for hurting my son.”
“I am very disturbed, disappointed and more fearful for my son at Purdue University, which has now change the narrative of his life story, and will adversely affect the mental health of my son for years to follow after this occurrence,” Dawson wrote in the letter, which was shared with Insider.
The PUPD is conducting an internal investigation, after which the Indiana State Police will conduct its own review at the request of the Tippecanoe County prosecutor. The officer’s body camera footage will not be released until both reviews are complete.
In a statement, Purdue University Police Chief John Cox said that the department takes “incidents such as this seriously,” and that “no physical injuries were suffered in the incident.”
Stroth said Tuggle is in counseling following the incident. He added that they would pursue “whatever legal remedy makes sense” once the investigations are complete.
“Physically he’s okay. I mean, he’s bruised up a little,” Stroth told Insider. “It’s a pretty bad experience for a young man, who’s a junior psychology major, who also works and goes to school and has never been in trouble for anything, to have this kind of traumatic experience.”
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