Prosecutor requests investigation into Purdue cop shown holding down Black student in snow

The student claims that the officer used excessive force and demands justice.

February 16, 2022, 5:43 PM

Tippecanoe County prosecutor Patrick Harrington is calling for the Indiana State Police to investigate an alleged incident caught on video that showed a Purdue University police officer with his elbow pressed against the neck and face of a Black student in the snow.

Purdue student Adonis Tuggle told ABC News he and his girlfriend were driving to his apartment from Purdue's recreational center on Feb. 4 when they began to have a "disagreement." He said they pulled over and were arguing on the side of the road when Purdue University police officer Jon Selke and other officers arrived.

Officers were called to the south side of the campus after a bystander made an "urgent" call to police saying it appeared a woman was being held against her will, Purdue University police chief John Cox said in a statement.

According to Tuggle, 24, their argument was over a "minimal topic," and the police did not need to get involved.

"Officer Jon Selke arrived on the scene and he was automatically on go-mode just assuming it's a threat or a dangerous situation, when in actuality, it was just a couple having a disagreement, which isn't anything uncommon," Tuggle told "Good Morning America."

Tuggle said his girlfriend tried to tell Selke the situation was under control and that he was her boyfriend, but Selke told her to "shut the ---- up," according to Tuggle.

He said this escalated the situation.

"That's when I stepped forward in front of my girlfriend to take over the conversation, and I told Officer Selke, 'OK, so don't tell my girlfriend to shut the ---- up. There's no need to be disrespectful," Tuggle said.

Tuggle said Selke then grabbed his arm, threw him against his girlfriend's truck and punched him. The two eventually fell into the snow. This is when Tuggle's girlfriend, who has asked ABC News not to be named, begins to record the altercation.

In the video, Tuggle can be heard saying "stop it, please" and "you're choking me" while his girlfriend asks Selke to get off of him and taps him. Selke then tells Tuggle's girlfriend that he will tase her if she touches him again. The video ends once more officers arrive at the scene.

Neither campus police nor Selke responded to ABC News' request for comment.

The one-minute video of the incident has been shared across social media, sparking outcry and debate on and off Purdue's campus.

PHOTO: In this screen grab taken from a video, Adonis Tuggle is forcibly detained by a Purdue University police officer.
In this screen grab taken from a video, Adonis Tuggle is forcibly detained by a Purdue University police officer.
Obtained by ABC News

"All you have to do is watch the video. What has changed in America is everyone has a cell phone. Everyone has a camera, so if it's an officer with his knee on George Floyd's neck or an officer at Purdue University with his elbow in Adonis' neck, that's brutality and that has to stop," the Tuggle's attorney, Andrew M. Stroth said.

Tuggle was arrested and charged with resisting arrest. He paid his $250 bond and was released after an hour in the Tippecanoe County jail. Tuggle said shortly after the incident he temporarily experience a lot of pain in his shoulder and his joints.

Cox said in a statement on Feb. 9 that "no physical injuries were suffered in the incident."

The Indiana State Police will independently review all evidence associated with the police call and response, including all available video evidence, witness statements, and police reports, Purdue said in a statement.

The evidence and results of the investigation will then be sent to Harrington, who will then decide whether to press charges.

Cox said campus police conduct an internal review whenever an officer uses force during an arrest. Cox said Selke was put on leave until further notice after the officer received death threats. It is unclear if the leave is paid or unpaid.

Tuggle's family asked for an independent investigation before the prosecutor's request. Stroth said the family wants Selke to be held accountable for his handling of the situation and for all body camera footage and evidence to be released publicly.

"The video from body-worn cameras will be made available, as will all findings and evidence from the internal review when complete," Cox said in a statement.

Tuggle's mother, Cornelia Dawson, said after watching the video, she doesn't understand how the situation escalated.

"The only thing I'm thinking is, 'I'm missing something.' He had an argument and then and then what? None of it makes sense," Dawson told "GMA."

PHOTO: In this Oct. 20, 2018, file photo, the campus of Purdue University is shown in West Lafayette, Ind.
In this Oct. 20, 2018, file photo, the campus of Purdue University is shown in West Lafayette, Ind.
Michael Hickey/Getty Images, FILE

Dawson sent a letter to Purdue University President Mitch Daniels after the incident, asking for him to bring justice to Tuggle and to ensure that incidents like this don't happen to any other student. She said she's disappointed after being a Purdue supporter for so long.

"Like a lot of parents, I was walking around feeling proud. He's at Purdue, prestigious Purdue. I became an ambassador. I bought the mugs. I had T-shirts, so I'm still in disbelief," she said.

Purdue University said it "welcomes the prosecutor's action and believes it to be a positive step, having previously requested an independent review by the ISP," according to a press release.

"There are no subjects Purdue takes more seriously than campus safety, student well-being, and proper police conduct," Daniels said in a statement on Feb. 10.

He said Purdue asked for not only a review from the ISP, but also the Purdue Police. Once both reviews are done, Daniels said all findings will be released.

Tuggle said he has interacted with police officers before and is often fearful of what could happen if a situation were to escalate.

"Like most Black males in America, especially out here in Indiana, when I see the police, unfortunately I get uncomfortable," he said. "I get on guard trying to make sure, 'OK, let me make sure everything's OK, my ID information' whatever that it is so hopefully things can go smoothly."

Stroth is grateful that Tuggle is safe after the incident.

"He was injured and he was traumatized, and it's serious, but thank God the outcome is different than others that we see every month in America," he said.

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