Chief says no 'criminal' act by officer in viral video

Chief says no 'criminal' act by officer in viral video
Malcolm Elliott Jr (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)
Malcolm Elliott Jr (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For the first time Tuesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney explained his stance concerning a viral video that shows one of his officers repeatedly striking a suspect who is accused of resisting arrest after a hit and run.

Within hours of the video surfacing on social media and news websites, protesters organized and the suspect's mother did several interviews.

"The only thing I see - one cop just constantly punching and punching," said Cheryl Elliot about her son, Malcolm.

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Elliot said she could not tell from the video whether he resisted arrest. She admitted her son has had run-ins with police previously.

CMPD charged Elliot with fleeing after a hit and run last week in east Charlotte.

"No use of force looks good," said Putney. "There's no way we can use force against a citizen, a community member, and it plays well."

MOBILE USERS: Click here to watch the video of the arrest

Putney invited reporters to the training academy to demonstrate how police overcome someone resisting arrest. A recruit played the role of suspect as an officer tried to bring her into compliance.

She was face-down on the ground with arms underneath her chest, unable to be put in handcuffs.

Officers say it's a difficult situation when they can't get a suspect into handcuffs and don't know if a weapon could be hidden somewhere.

In this case, one officer among the group is seen striking Elliot several times. CMPD's use of force continuum says punches are allowed to get a suspect under control when other options, like verbal commands and the use of pressure points, fail.

"When you layer race and talk about the history of policing, all of those things matter," said Putney, referencing the importance to being open and transparent about this case, which involves a group of white officers and a black suspect.

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Putney said he came to his conclusion of no criminal wrong-doing based on several other angles revealed by the officers' body cameras and other evidence.

"It gives us a comfort. We know it's not criminal. Now we're just looking for any potential policy violations," said Putney.

He expects the internal investigation to be resolved soon. He said the body camera video will not be released because without a criminal act, it becomes a personnel issue.

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