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Purdue officer on leave over viral arrest video; police investigating

The university’s Black Student Union organized a town hall Thursday.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — NOTE: The video of the arrest contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.

A Purdue University Police Department officer has been placed on leave as the department conducts an internal investigation after a video of an arrest went viral on social media.

Chief John Cox said he placed the officer on leave until further notice after the officer and the police department received death threats.

The video shows an officer attempting to arrest student Adonis Tuggle on Friday, Feb. 4 near Harrison and Horticulture drives. According to the Purdue crime log, Tuggle was resisting law enforcement during the arrest. Tippecanoe County Jail logs indicate Tuggle is no longer in custody.

The department said a caller witnessed two people arguing and was concerned a woman was being held against her will. In the video, the person recording identifies herself as Tuggle's girlfriend.

The officer is seen on top of Tuggle, while his girlfriend and he yell for the officer to get off the student. At one point, the officer has his forearm on Tuggle's neck, and the woman tries to move it away.

"Touch me again, ma'am, and I will tase you," the officer tells her.

On Thursday, the university’s Black Student Union organized a town hall so students had 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.  

Many who spoke also demanded answers, transparency and accountability from the university and its police department.  

Organizers said if their concerns are not addressed soon, they plan to hold another town hall in the future.  

The Indiana State Police finished its investigation into the case and turned its findings over to the Tippecanoe County Prosecutors office on Feb. 22.

On that same day, the prosecutor’s office filed a motion for a Special Prosecutor to ”avoid the appearance of impropriety.” Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings accepted the role of Special Prosecutor on Feb. 25. At last check, on March 15, his office reported the case is still under review and there’s no determination yet.

Purdue officials respond

Purdue Police Chief John Cox issued the following statement about the incident Wednesday:

Purdue University police became aware Friday night (Feb. 4) of an incident that occurred that evening involving a Purdue police officer who responded to an urgent call from a third party following our "see something, say something" campus safety guidance. The caller stated that it appeared a woman was being held against her will near Horticulture Drive.

Any time a PUPD officer uses force in connection with an arrest, the department conducts an internal review. PUPD commenced that review, led by Deputy Chief Lesley Wiete immediately upon receiving the officer's report on Friday night. That investigation will, under PUPD General Orders, 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 President Mitch Daniels released the following statement about the investigation into the incident:

There are no subjects Purdue takes more seriously than campus safety, student well-being, and proper police conduct. On Friday evening, Feb. 4, police received a bystander report of a suspected assault on a woman, prompting an officer’s urgent response.  

Immediately upon learning of the use of force during our police officer’s response, we ordered an investigation, including not only the required review of the officer’s actions as is standard procedure under Purdue University Police policies, but also witness interviews and a release of all video evidence, including body-worn and in-car camera footage.

The inquiry into the police officer’s handling of the situation will be swift and thorough. As an additional step, following the internal review, the Indiana State Police will immediately commence an independent review of the PUPD investigation and video evidence. 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.  

We ask for your patience as the investigation moves forward and again, will communicate findings as soon as they are available.

Cox said Thursday once his department's internal investigation is complete, Indiana State Police will begin an independent review of the incident.

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