Police officer Corporal James Johnson, of Wilmington, North Carolina, was recently indicted for choking a 16-year-old suspect while he was handcuffed. The whole incident was filmed by a camera that was inside the police car, and for months the police department has been preventing that video from reaching the public.
The family and the prosecuting attorneys have seen the video, and according to court documents, officer Johnson can be seen choking young Tyrell Rivers while he was handcuffed, and the officer can also be heard yelling "Do you want to die in this patrol car tonight?".
Rivers was charged with resisting arrest and booked on a number of drug charges on the night in question, April 4th 2014. The officer's indictment came just months later, this past June, when someone at the District Attorney's office stumbled across the tape. The frightening specifics of the encounter remained a secret for months, until the details of the tape were published this week when local media sources obtained court documents which specifically mentioned some of the officer's comments that night.
Johnson and his attorney argue that Rivers was aggressive on the night in question and that Johnson was not choking him, but using a pressure point technique called "brachial flexus" to try and subdue Rivers. However, the claims of the officer are allegedly not supported by the video evidence.
According to local WECT 6, A grand jury indicted Corporal Johnson on misdemeanor charges of simple assault and willful failure to discharge duties.
Investigators pointed out in the court documents that Johnson never mentioned the choke hold in his use of force report. In the report, he had only made mention of the use of his stun gun, not the choke hold.
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The Rivers family is demanding the immediate release of the video to the public, but the police department has done everything in their power to keep it under wraps.
"This is a big case that happened with a young person and young people right now want to know what actually happened, so to not release the video, I think it creates a great wedge between the community and the police as far as the relationship," Vance Williams, a spokesperson for Rivers family said.
Johnson is currently on unpaid suspension according to a statement released by the police department.
In the statement, Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said that:
For the past few weeks the State Bureau of Investigations has been conducting an investigation into a Use-of-Force incident involving Wilmington Police Department personnel. Today the results of that investigation were taken before the Grand Jury. At approximately 4:30 p.m. the New Hanover County Grand Jury indicted Officer Corporal James Coley Johnson on two misdemeanor charges of Simple Assault and Failure to Discharge Duties. He will be placed on Administrative Leave without pay pending the outcome of the court proceedings and our internal investigation. While today's outcome causes great concern and despair, our thoughts are with his family, the agency and the community at-large. This is a stressful time, but we will get through this together.
Johnson is scheduled to appear in court on October 13.
John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work he is also the owner of a successful music promotion company. In 2013, he became one of the organizers of the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.