Police in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, used a stun gun, a baton and four sets of handcuffs to arrest a man accused of punching a bouncer and walking out on his $235 bar tab on Sunday.
Facebook video of the incident outside Surfer The Bar is leading some to question why the use of force was necessary in the first place. Some viewers say Christopher Alan White did not appear combative when a Jacksonville Beach Police Department officer deployed the first stun gun.
White pulled the prongs off the first stun gun, seemingly unaffected.
“Stop doing that,” White can be heard saying in the video.
That comment led to a second stun gun deployment from a second officer as well as an attempted headlock, from which White wriggled free.
“I’m not fighting,” White said as an officer hit his thigh with a baton.
White swatted at the officer as he was hit.
A third officer deployed a third stun gun, which brought White to the ground.
The officer wrote in his report that he deployed that stun gun because White refused to give him his hand to be cuffed.
Crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said he does not believe that’s enough of a reason to use a stun gun on someone.
“Not when you have backup there and additional backup on the way. There’s not enough reason for you to Taser someone just because they won’t give you their hand, despite his size,” he said.
“I was just protecting myself. I didn't want to get hurt,” White told WJAX Wednesday.
According to White, he did not walk out on his tab, he did not punch anyone and he did not resist arrest.
He said a bartender got mad when fraud protection locked up his credit card.
“So she started yelling, ‘You need to pay your bill. You need to pay your bill.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, I have another card,’” White said.
According to a transaction on the second card, White appears to have paid his $235 tab, plus a $50 tip he said he didn’t authorize.
White said when he gave the bartender his second card, someone hit him in the head with a bottle, which is why he said he was disoriented when dealing with police.
“After that, I was stumbling and went outside. And I was trying to explain to the cop that, ‘Hey, I paid my tab and I was hit in the head with a bottle.’ And I couldn’t get a word in edgewise,” White said.
Witness Jon McGowan’s interpretation of the incident seems to contradict White’s response.
“They had to actually drag him out. It took about four or five people to get him out of the bar. And during the time, he was very red-faced, screaming, yelling, swinging,” McGowan said, adding that White “threw a few punches in there.”
McGowan said police responded appropriately because White was “very violent in the bar” and “he had been violent outside as well.”
Deborah Deen, 62, a friend of White, said police threatened to stun her too.
“I was like, ‘Why did you do that?’ to one of the female officers. And she says, ‘Well, do you want to be next?’” Deen said.
Jacksonville Beach police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Crumley issued the following statement after declining an interview:
“In regards to the claims and allegations you said are coming from Mr. White’s Attorney, we have not received any communication from Mr. White, nor his attorney with these claims. Regardless, the incident is currently under an active review as a use of force by our officers. Anytime an officer from this agency uses any force, this process is followed, with or without internal or external complaints. Due to the ongoing investigation and review of this incident, we will not be making any statements until we ensure a complete and thorough investigation has been conducted. It is best that we not rush to judgment with any statements condemning or commending the officers and their actions. We will continue to gather all of the facts and review all of the evidence available in this case. Once a complete and thorough review of this incident is complete, the administration will then determine if the officers used force appropriately or if there is need for further investigation into the matter. Thank you for understanding the seriousness of the allegations you have laid out and the need for a complete and thorough investigation into this matter.”
Court records in Putnam County, where White lives, show he has no prior criminal cases there, just traffic and civil cases.
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