WEST LAFAYETTE — A Purdue University police officer has been placed on a leave of absence amid an internal university police department investigation into the arrest of a man last Friday night, the school announced late Thursday.
In a statement Thursday evening, Purdue University Police Department Chief John Cox said death threats were directed at the officer and police department after footage of the arrest went viral online.
The officer will remain on leave until further notice. Cox's statement did not clarify whether the officer's leave will be paid or unpaid. WRTV asked Purdue by email late Thursday night for clarification and is awaiting a response.
"An internal investigation is taking place into the Feb. 4 incident, and upon completion, the Indiana State Police will immediately commence its own independent review," Cox said.
The arrested occurred while an officer responded to an "urgent call" from a third party who followed the campus' "see something, say something" guidance, Cox previously said. Cox said the caller said it appeared the woman was being held against her will near Horticulture Drive.
A video showing part of the Black man's encounter with a white police officer was posted on Instagram and has thousands of views. WRTV is still attempting to get permission to share the video. The woman who recorded the video said she is now receiving threats.
The video starts off with the officer, who hasn't been identified, telling the person recording the video to get back. The man, whose identity hasn't been confirmed, is on his back near what appears to be a pile of snow.
The officer 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.
Video from the officers' body cameras hasn't been released at this time. In the statement, Cox said once the internal review is complete, the video and all findings and evidence will be released.
"Any time a PUPD officer uses force in connection with an arrest, the department conducts an internal review," Cox said in the statement. "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."
Cox said no injuries were reported.
It's not clear when the internal investigation may be complete, though Purdue President Mitch Daniels said the inquiry will be "swift and thorough."
Daniels also said Indiana State Police will do an independent review of the PUPD investigation and evidence.
At this time, it's unclear what, if any, charges were filed in connection with the incident.
Purdue community reacts to arrest
Students joined for a meeting Thursday held by the Black Student Union to talk about moving forward from this incident.
A common theme throughout the meeting was police training and changing how police handle certain situations.
Brittne Paramore, the advisor for the Black Student Union, said it was important to have something students could attend.
"For this incident to be as big as it was, we wanted to give space for students to feel safe, have a place to talk about their feelings, emotions and concerns," Paramore said. "Ultimately, I'm happy the situation, though ugly, turned into a beautiful thing for campus to be able to unite under a common theme and subject."
Purdue said the Office of the Dean of Students, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging and Office of Counseling and Psychological Services are providing resources and support for students who were involved or affected.
You can read the full statement from Daniels below:
“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.”
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