‘Tase his ass!’ Police video shows violent arrest of mentally ill man

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 10:00 PM EDT
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SHELBY, N.C. (WBTV) – What started as a police call for a man exposing himself at a gas station in May ended with a half-dozen officers violently putting an unarmed, mentally-ill man in handcuffs.

Tivon Eiland was arrested by Shelby police officers in the parking lot of a Domino’s along Highway 74 in Shelby after he ran several blocks from the gas station.

A WBTV reporter went to court to get a judge’s order for release of the video after Eiland’s family called the station with concerns.

The video, including one clip police first claimed didn’t exist, shows officers punching Eiland repeatedly in the head with closed fists.

But, the video shows, the sergeant on scene decided to use violence before ever stepping out of his vehicle.

‘Tase his ass!’

Sergeant Chris Truett was first to try and stop Eiland, in the parking lot of the gas station where a man matching Eiland’s description had been reported to be exposing himself and attempting to grope women.

But as Truett called out to Eiland, he took off. Truett and another officer caught up with him, body cam video shows, after turning around and calling for backup.

As Truett went down the road, in between radioing his location and calling for backup, he shouted multiple times that he was going to “tase his ass,” referring to Eiland. He also referred to the suspect by other expletives.

The video shows that as Truett caught up with Eiland, he got out of his car with his taser in hand and, at one point, fired his taser at Eiland as the pair ran around the back of the Domino’s.

Eventually, other officers drive up and corner Eiland, which is when one officer jumps on top of him and takes him to the ground.

Almost immediately, the video shows, an officer begins punching Eiland in the head. Even as other officers arrive and join in the effort to take Eiland into custody, officers are see putting their arms around Eiland’s neck and continuing to punch him. They also drive-stun him with the taser.

‘There’s no one to speak for him’

We showed the video to Taquetta Jones, Eiland’s sister, who was visibly shaken as she watched what unfolded.

Afterwards, she said the encounter was hard to watch.

“Because my brother is mentally ill,” she said.

According to Jones, Eiland suffers from schizophrenia and is non-verbal.

“There’s no one to speak for him, right?” she said. “There was nobody out there to say he’s mentally ill. He’s not going to talk.”

Jones also said she struggled to see how police could accuse her brother of struggling with officers and being violent towards them.

“He is not a violent person,” she said. “My brother is scared if he sees you coming towards him. He’s going to go the other way.”

‘What did he do to deserve that?’

We showed the video to attorney Brad Smith, a Charlotte lawyer who has previously handled police excessive force cases but was not familiar with Eiland’s case before we showed him the video.

“Oh my God,” Smith said. “What did he do wrong to warrant that?”

Smith said the officers would need justification to use force on Eiland; justification he did not see in the body cam video.

And even if they had been justified to use force, Smith said, punching him in the face was not an appropriate way to get a suspect to put their hands behind their back.

“I’m not aware of any case I’ve had hold that any sort of tactic that requires you to punch them in the face,” Smith said.

“Common sense would tell you that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he continued. “Because if you’re asking somebody to put their hands behind your back, again, if you’re repeatedly punching them in the face, their natural inclination is going to be to use their arms to defend against that.”

Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford refused to answer questions for this story but issued a statement defending the officers’ actions.

“The released footage depicts the suspect’s resistance, officers use of force to obtain compliance,” Ledford said.

None of the officers involved in Eiland’s arrest were disciplined, according to personnel records provided by the city.

Shelby PD claims video doesn’t exist

The video from Truett is the clearest picture of officers’ actions during Eiland’s arrest. As the sergeant, Truett stood in front of Eiland and the officers, giving a clear picture of what happened.

It also shows the minute leading up to officers’ encounter with Eiland after the call from the gas station.

Despite that, the Shelby Police Department claimed video from Truett’s camera did not exist.

After a judge ordered the police department to release all video, a lawyer for the department sent a link to seven sets of videos.

A reporter noticed Truett standing off to the side and clearly wearing a body camera in the video of two other officers’ body cameras.

But when the reported inquired about where Truett’s video was, the department’s lawyer said it didn’t exist.

“No additional recordings exist,” Andrea Leslie-Fite said in an email.

“In an abundance of caution, staff checked again to determine if the sergeant’s video was captured, and it was not,” the email said.

Hours after sending that email, after additional questioning from WBTV, Fite sent an email with a link to the video from Truett’s camera.

“The sergeant’s body camera recorded; however the other recordings were categorized differently which allowed the system to retain or capture it for production,” Fite said.

“Fortunately, staff located a hard copy of the sergeant’s body cam footage this afternoon which has been shared by separate link,” she continued. “To be clear, I had not seen this video prior to court and staff initially thought it was not captured.”

In his written statement, Ledford reiterated that the department did not try to withhold Truett’s video.

Jones, Eiland’s sister, said she called WBTV in hopes publicizing the incident would help bring justice for her brother.

“To be out here just treating people like that, that’s just not right,” Jones said.

“They’re not going to get away with this.”

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