An Illinois police department has opened an excessive use of force investigation after social media footage appeared to show an officer placing a man in a choke hold during an arrest for marijuana possession.
The DeKalb Police Department in northern Illinois said it was reviewing footage and witness statements in connection with the arrest of 25-year-old Elonte McDowell, a black man who was placed in a choke hold and tased by white police officers last week, authorities said Tuesday.
McDowell's girlfriend, Alyssa Retuerto, captured the Aug. 24 arrest on video and posted it to Facebook with the caption, "For you guys to decide. Right or wrong?" Retuerto can be heard pleading with the officers in the video, asking why they needed to use a Taser while McDowell was pinned to the ground and in a choke hold.
"He has a pulse, right? Like, you guys, can make sure that he has a pulse? ’Cause look at his face," she says in the recording. The video, posted Monday evening, had accumulated more than 4,000 reactions, shares and comments on Facebook as of Wednesday evening.
The department said officers pulled the couple over after getting a tip about a man carrying a "load of drugs," according to a statement released Tuesday. Officers said they recovered a "felony amount of cannabis" from the vehicle and attempted to place McDowell in custody, but he tried to flee the scene.
"Officers informed McDowell that he was under arrest and approached McDowell to place him into handcuffs. Upon doing so, McDowell attempted to flee," the statement said. "Officers attempted to restrain McDowell, who continued to resist their efforts to place him into handcuffs. During this encounter, a Taser was deployed to gain McDowell’s compliance."
McDowell admitted to having marijuana in his possession at the time, but he said the officers should be penalized for what he considered to be an excessive use of force.
"This is what some police officers do and you have to put a stand on it," McDowell told Chicago ABC station WLS on Wednesday. "It's not OK. … It needs to get out there. It happened one too many times. This happens every day."
He was charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with the intent to deliver, unlawful possession of cannabis, criminal trespass to property and resisting a peace officer.
The department said one of the officers involved has been temporarily reassigned to administrative duties while it investigates the incident.
It has also contacted the Illinois State Police to conduct an independent review.