The photographs, taken by John Messner and first published on the Daily Mail, show Officer Frank Phillips using excessive force on Jarod Dotson, a 21-year-old student at the University of Tennessee, outside a house party Saturday night. More than 60 law enforcement officers responded to the party as the 800 attendees began spilling into the street.
In the series of photos, Phillips is seen approaching Dotson—who was already in the process of being handcuffed by two other officers—and placing his hands around the student's neck. The photos show Phillips squeezing until Dotson fell to the ground, reportedly unconscious.
Phillips and the Sheriff's department initially claimed Dotson had resisted arrest; one deputy wrote in the arrest report that Dotson "began to physically resist officers' instructions to place his hands behind his back, and at one point grabbed on to an officer's leg." Witnesses—including Messner, the photographer—refuted those claims in an interview with the Washington Post.
"In my 34 years of law enforcement experience, excessive force has never been tolerated. After an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, I believe excessive force was used in this incident. Therefore, Officer Phillips' employment with the Knox County Sheriff's Office is terminated immediately. The investigation will now be turned over to the Knox County Attorney General's Office to determine any further action."
"This incident provides a perfect example of why we are in the process of purchasing officer worn body cameras (video and audio recordings) so incidents like this will be fully documented."
Dotson was arrested on charges of public intoxication and resisting arrest. He was released Sunday morning on $500 bond.