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Purdue University officer in viral video put on leave due to death threats, police say

A police officer is on leave after receiving death threats prompted by a viral cellphone video taken at Purdue University which appears to show the officer physically struggling with a Black student who repeatedly says he’s being choked, officials said.

The identity of the officer, who is white, involved in the Feb. 4 incident has not been released by authorities.

The university said in a statement Thursday Purdue University Police Chief John Cox placed the officer on leave after his life was threatened. The statement did not identify the student seen in the video.

“Cox initiated the leave of absence after the officer and department received death threats. PUPD is investigating the threats,” the statement said. The department is also investigating the arrest, police said, which was spurred by a report of a suspected assault on a woman. The Indiana State Police is conducting an independent review, police said.

Cox said in a separate statement a caller said “it appeared a woman was being held against her will near Horticulture Drive.”

He added: “The department’s review of the force used in the arrest will include input from all witnesses to the arrest and take into account all available evidence, including video from officers’ body-worn cameras and statements from the students involved. No physical injuries were suffered in the incident. Purdue police take incidents such as this seriously. The video from body-worn cameras will be made available as will all findings and evidence from the internal review when complete.”

Purdue police did not respond Friday for additional information into the incident.

A video, which is about a minute, was posted to Instagram showing some of the physical exchange between the officer and student. NBC News does not know what preceded or followed the video.

 A woman, heard on the video, identifies herself as the girlfriend of the man the officer is struggling with.

“You’re hurting him. You’re hurting him. Can you take your elbow off his f—— neck,” she says.

The man in the video repeatedly tells the officer, “You’re choking me. You’re choking me.”

Toward the end of the video, the woman shouts, “Please help. This officer won’t get off his neck. He’s taking it too far.”

Adonis Tuggle, 24, a junior and psychology major, told the Associated Press he was the man seen on the video who struggled with the officer. Tuggle’s girlfriend recorded the video, he said.

Tuggle declined immediate comment Friday afternoon to NBC News, deferring the call to his attorney.

Tuggle told the Associated Press he felt lucky to survived.

“Basically, what happened to George Floyd almost happened to me, except I had an elbow not a knee, and fortunately, I’m still breathing instead of being in a casket,” Tuggle said.

Tuggle said he doesn’t know who called the police, only that the officer arrived and screamed at him to get away from the car where his girlfriend was.

“I was already a couple of feet away from my girlfriend,” said Tuggle, who added that his girlfriend tried speaking to the officer. The officer used an expletive while telling her to shut up, he said.

“I told him he had no reason to be disrespectful,” Tuggle said. “He was yelling at her and she was yelling at him. I told my girlfriend to calm down and I heard him scream ‘OK buddy, you’re going down,’ and he threw me against the car.”

Tuggle said the officer had him on the ground and told him to “stop resisting.” He said the officer also punched him.

At some point, Tuggle said he told his girlfriend to start recording. She told the officer he was hurting her boyfriend. She tapped the officer, and he responded by warning that he will use his Taser on her if she does it again, Tuggle said.

When other officers arrived, Tuggle said one proceeded to hold one of his arms while another held his leg.

Tuggle said he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest. He spent about an hour in jail before bailing himself out.

Tuggle’s attorney Andrew M. Stroth said Friday the video speaks for itself.

“We are demanding a full and transparent investigation into the excessive and unjustified attack on Adonis by the Purdue University police officer,” Stroth said. “We are demanding the immediate release of all the video evidence. There is body camera police video that police have, that has not been shared with the family or shared publicly.”

He added, “It’s another young Black man attacked by a police officer. This took place, tragically, on a college campus. Thank God he’s OK because the officer had his elbow in Adonis’ neck. Adonis couldn’t breathe.”

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels asked for patience in a statement Thursday:

“The inquiry into the police officer’s handling of the situation will be swift and thorough,” Daniels said. “Should there be a finding of misconduct by the officer, appropriate action will be taken promptly. In the spirit of transparency, once the Purdue Police and Indiana State Police reviews are complete, all findings and evidence, including all video evidence from body-worn cameras, in-car camera footage, dispatch calls and witness interviews, will be made available.”

NBC affiliate WTHR in Indianapolis reported on Thursday the university’s Black Student Union organized a town hall giving students an opportunity to discuss what happened and brainstorm solutions on how to prevent similar situations. 

“Why do Black people constantly have to justify their lives?” one student said during the event. 

“How many more videos of police putting their knees and elbow on a black person’s neck and throat do we need to see before we realize that’s not how arrests are made?” another student said.