A Purdue University police officer was placed on leave after being caught on video using his elbow to pin a Black student to the ground by the neck while the student yelled, “You’re choking me,” NBC Chicago reports.
Adonis Tuggle, a 24-year-old student, said that the officer also punched him and pressed his face into the snowy ground during an arrest on the school’s campus in West Lafayette, Indiana on February 4.
A portion of the arrest was captured by Tuggle’s girlfriend, which was first reported by entertainment website TMZ.
“He was smothering me, almost as if you were trying to drown somebody underwater,” Tuggle said.
Chief John Cox said in a statement on Thursday he placed the officer on a leave of absence after the officer and the department received death threats. He claimed that the officer was responding to a third-party call who said, “it appeared a woman was being held against her will.”
Cox also noted his department was conducting an internal review of the officer’s conduct during the arrest along with Indiana State Police.
Tuggle said he wasn't aware who called the police but when the officer arrived on the scene, he screamed at him to get away from his girlfriend, who is white.
“I was already a couple of feet away from my girlfriend,” said Tuggle, who added that she tried speaking to the officer, but he issued an expletive, telling her to shut up.
“I told him he had no reason to be disrespectful,” he 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."
During the incident, Tuggle said he told his girlfriend to record what was happening and she told the officer he was hurting her boyfriend. After tapping the officer, he warned her that he would use his taser on her if she did it again, shared her boyfriend.
When other officers arrived, Tuggle said one held one of his arms while another held his leg.
“I was still screaming: ‘He has his elbow on my neck,’” Tuggle said. “He dropped his full weight on my face and neck. In the heat of the moment, the only thing I was thinking about was trying to get this officer off of me.”
“You could hear me say ‘I can’t breathe. You’re choking me. You’re hurting me,” he recalled.
Tuggle said the 2020 death of George Floyd ran through his mind as he was being apprehended.
“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,” he said.
Andrew M. Stroth, a civil rights attorney, said Tuggle and his family are demanding a full investigation, the release of police body camera video, and requesting charges against Tuggle should be dropped.
Purdue’s Black Student Union organized a town hall in response to the incident and it was filled with students. Those in attendance “demanded action and suggested independent oversight of Purdue’s police department, more accessibility to body cameras and increased, more permanent resources for Purdue students of color.”
Nigel Taylor, the vice president of the Black Student Union, said the students outlined “a clear plan to enforce these goals if they weren’t to happen.”
“Of course, we want to do this peacefully, we really don’t want to get to that point. However, we do want to make sure this agenda is met because quite frankly we’re tired of having these same conversations year after year after year,” he told WLFI-TV.
Purdue President Mitchell Daniels, Jr. said in a statement that the investigation into the officer’s conduct would be swift and thorough.
“Should there be a finding of misconduct by the officer, appropriate action will be taken promptly,” he said.