WEST LAFAYETTE — The special prosecutor appointed to litigate the case of a man's February arrest by a Purdue University police officer says neither that man nor the arresting officer will be charged in connection with the encounter.
The announcement came a little more than two months after the man's controversial arrest went viral on social media.
"I recognize there are times when police officers fail to live up to their public trust and expectations. This, however, was not one of those occasions and the public response to this incident was therefore unfortunate. [The arrestee] released a video that failed to depict his own behavior which necessitated police use of force," wrote Rodney Cummings, the special prosecutor and prosecuting attorney of Madison County, wrote in his findings.
Cummings identified the arresting officer as Jon Selke.
"While I agree Officer Selke could have spent more time attempting to de-escalate the situation, that consideration is not within the scope of my responsibility," Cummings wrote.
On Monday, Cummings' office released police body camera footage of the encounter. It can be viewed below.
The man who was arrested encountered university officers on Feb. 4 while they were responding to a report of a domestic disturbance. The arrestee is Black, and Officer Selke is white.
It is WRTV's policy to not name suspects until they are formally charged.
A video of the arrest was posted on Instagram and has thousands of views. The woman who recorded it and members of the Police Department said they received death threats after it was posted.
University police previously said a third party reported a woman appeared to have been held against her will.
The video of the encounter starts with an officer later identified as Selke telling the person recording the video to get back. The man is on his back near what appears to be a pile of snow.
Then, Selke appears to be using his arm near the man's head and neck. The man, at one point, says "you're choking me" several times before the man moves his head and the officer moves his arm. At one point, the officer appears to use his radio and said he "needs more people here now please."
The video ends when it appears more officers approach the scene.
Cummings' findings allege that when Selke arrived, he found the man standing outside a woman's car with the door open and told the man several times to stand behind the car. The findings say the man ignored Selke each time.
Selke then told the man, "I asked you nicely. I'm about to put you in handcuffs," and when the man ignored him again, Selke grabbed his arm and placed his wrists in handcuffs, the findings allege. A struggle then ensued.
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Selke then radioed for backup, saying he was "in a fight" before additional officers arrived.
Cummings wrote that Selke was positioned on top of the man and at one point the man reached around Selke in an attempt to unholster his handgun.
The man appears to touch Selke's holstered gun in video provided by Cummings' office.
Later, in an interview with police, the man said he tried to grab Selke's gun in self-defense, the findings allege.
Purdue University Police Chief John Cox said Selke was placed on an indefinite leave of absence after the arrest. University officials have not clarified whether the leave is paid.
"The full investigation reveals that Officer Selke did exactly as we expect our police officers to do. He intervened on behalf of the victim and successfully restrained [the arrestee] until backup arrived without injuring him. For that, Officer Selke should be commended, not vilified," Cummings wrote in his findings.
Cummings added that probable cause for criminal charges exists against the arrestee, but he will not be charged based on the request of the arresting officer, representatives of the university, and a victim and her family.
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels released the following statement on Tuesday:
“First, we understand and respect the prosecutor’s decision and are glad for his forbearance in not proceeding with charges against [the arrestee]. Notwithstanding the legal considerations, we believe this was an incident that escalated too quickly in the distinctive context of our campus environment. We recognize this is an outcome that no member of the Purdue community should expect in light of our high aspirations for community policing at Purdue, which have the primary aim of ensuring a safe and positive experience for our students on campus. We deeply regret what happened, and we’re grateful for our community’s patience as we, alongside [the arrestee], Officer Jon Selke and their families, have worked to gain a better understanding of what occurred that night and a reconciliation among the parties to the incident.
“We’re proud of the fact that PUPD has no record of this type of incident occurring in the past. It was an aberration and must remain so. 'Zero' is the only acceptable number of such incidents at Purdue. We’ve directed several definitive steps to reduce the chance that anything of this kind ever occurs in the future.”
Daniels said the following actions will be taken moving forward:
- A reminder to the campus of any citizen’s responsibility and the legal requirement to respect promptly and peacefully the requests of a law enforcement officer.
- An immediate external review of the Purdue University Police Department’s use of force policy and de-escalation training program, followed by an action plan and metrics designed to prevent a recurrence of this type of incident.
- Officer Jon Selke is temporarily reassigned to administrative services while participating in comprehensive training, with a particular focus on de-escalation protocols, before returning to patrol duties.
- Continued commitment to recruiting a diverse police force, including Black student leader representation on search committees for PUPD leadership positions.
The university also released a statement on behalf of Selke, who apologized for his actions.
"I fully acknowledge how my actions and the images of this event have called into question the safety and belonging of Purdue’s Black community. I am very sorry for that," Selke said in the statement.
Andrew M. Stroth, the attorney for the man who was arrested, said, "As I reviewed this case, it was clear Purdue does not have a record of racist policing toward students. But I have never seen an institution respond so swiftly and positively with this kind of commitment to evaluating potential process improvements, which I think will only build on the efforts of Purdue’s Equity Task Force to create a welcoming living and learning environment for Black students on Purdue’s campus," according to a statement on his behalf provided by the university.
The Purdue Black Student Union, a student-led group which held a town hall after the arrest where students voiced concerns, said on Tuesday that it still wants to see university officials commit to more actions.
"While we have worked to communicate with administration on this occurrence, the lack of transparency and communication has prompted us to publicize these demands on behalf of the student body. This incident was unnecessary and displays the lack of effective and proficient de-escalation training," the group wrote.
"This incident blemishes Purdue's rating as one of the safest campuses in the nation. It is incumbent upon the University Black Student Union to communicate the concerns of students to the university's administration to call for reform that benefits current students and future Black Boilermakers Alike, as well as the entirety of the Purdue Community."
The Black Student Union released the following demands:
WRTV has also reached out to representatives of the Purdue University Police Department but has not heard back.
WRTV Investigates reporter Kara Kenney contributed to this report.
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