A Florida police officer pressed his knee into the neck of a handcuffed black man a week before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a bystander's video released this week shows - a release that has prompted a departmental investigation and the officer being placed on leave.
Two Sarasota officers are seen on video holding down Patrick Carroll, 27, as they arrested him May 18 on domestic violence charges for allegedly attacking a woman by pulling her hair, striking her and throwing her to the ground.
One officer put his knee on Carroll's neck as he lied face down on the street as another appears to be tightening the handcuffs holding his arms behind his back. A third officer stood nearby. A bystander yelled at the officer not to put his knee on Carroll's neck.
The department told news outlets it wasn’t aware the officer placed a knee on Carroll’s neck until it was tagged in the video on social media on Monday. In a police report released by the department, an officer stated, “minor force was used to escort subject to the ground and secure him long enough for him to calm down.”
“Utilizing your knee on someone’s neck is not something that we train,” Sarasota Police Deputy Chief Patrick Robinson said. “It’s not something that we authorize and it’s not something that we stand behind.” He has pledged transparency in the investigation.
Policing experts have told The Associated Press that no U.S. department is known to teach officers to put a knee into a suspect's neck because it can cut off the suspect's breathing and blood flow to the brain. Academies teach recruits a variety of use-of-force techniques, all with the idea that any force employed may equal but not exceed the physical resistance offered by a suspect.
One technique is to restrain someone on the ground face-down, but officers are taught to press a part of the lower leg, such as the shin or top of the ankle, across the shoulders or the back. In some cases officers will “hog-tie” suspects’ legs to prevent flight or violent resistance.
The New York Police Department, for example, says in its policies manual in bold capitals that officers “SHALL NOT” use chokeholds and should “avoid actions which may result in chest compression, such as sitting, kneeling, or standing on a subject’s chest or back, thereby reducing the subject’s ability to breathe.”
Such tactics gained worldwide attention after bystander video of Floyd's May 29 death showed a Minneapolis officer putting his knee on his neck for over eight minutes while three other officers failed to stop him. Floyd complained he couldn't breath and then lost consciousness. Officer Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder while the other three officers are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Sarasota police said on Facebook that Carroll "didn't require medical attention nor did the individual complain of injuries during the incident.” Carroll's family disputes this, telling the Herald-Tribune that a request for medical attention was denied in jail and they are seeking legal counsel.
Aerial video posted by the department Tuesday shows more of the encounter. The officers are seen speaking with Carroll for several minutes before placing him in handcuffs. He then resists being put in the patrol car, and officers force him to the ground.
Carroll said he was trying to ask officers why he was being detained. He said he has asthma and scoliosis in his back, and was having trouble breathing.
“I could have been dead on that ground and not standing here talking to y’all right now,” Carroll told reporters this week, amid global protests over the death of Floyd, who said he couldn’t breathe as a Minneapolis officer pressed a knee into his neck on Memorial Day.
The officer who placed his knee on Carroll's neck has been placed on administrative leave, the department said. The two other officers are on “desk duty” while the arrest is being investigated, news outlets reported. Officials have not identified the officers.
Carroll, meanwhile, faces charges of domestic battery, resisting arrest and possessing ammunition by a felon as he allegedly had bullets but no gun in his backpack. The police report says the woman he allegedly attacked had bruising to her arms, face and chest. He is free on bail. State records show he served 1.5 years in prison on a felony battery conviction and was released in 2015.