A Burke County deputy is on administrative paid leave and an investigation is ongoing after a video showed the deputy restraining a man by his neck last week.
In a video posted Saturday to TikTok that has garnered more than 70,000 views, a deputy can be seen holding a man to him with the crook of his elbow pressed against the man’s neck. Another deputy can be seen standing in front of the two with her arms stretched out in front of her.
After about 40 seconds of recording, the man appears to go limp and the deputy lowers him to the ground before the recording cuts off after 52 seconds.
A second video, uploaded Sunday but taken during the same incident, seems to show the man after he collapsed. He is awake and standing, but pressed against the side of the patrol car.
A third deputy has arrived at the scene in the second clip while a deputy stands behind the man and another deputy stands off to the side.
Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisenant said Tuesday afternoon that the incident is under investigation and has been since Saturday.
He said a deputy has been placed on administrative leave with pay for the duration of the investigation, and that he expects to release additional information soon.
Whisenant would not confirm which arrest led to the incident, but based on arrest reports and information from an eyewitness, The News Herald has identified an arrest that happened along the same timeline in the same location.
The man, whose name will not be printed until the sheriff’s office confirms it, was arrested on an outstanding warrant from another county. He also ended up with two charges of resisting a public officer from the Friday arrest.
Warrants filed Friday at the Burke County Courthouse for resisting a public officer said the man refused to comply with commands to “stop resisting” and put his hands behind his back.
They claimed that he actively tried to pull away, and tried to wrestle away a deputy’s pepper spray. That struggle, according to the warrants, resulted in the deputies being hit by the spray.
Under the sheriff’s office Use of Force Policy, chokeholds are considered a form of deadly force and are prohibited with limited exceptions.
“Holds that may choke or restrict the ability of an individual to breathe may be considered the use of deadly force and are thus prohibited except to defend the Deputy or a third person from what the Deputy reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly force or an assault that could result in serious physical injury,” the policy says.
Morganton Department of Public Safety’s policy goes a step further.
“Due to the potential for serious injury or death, members shall not use chokeholds, strangleholds, Lateral Vascular Neck Restraints, chest compressions, or any other tactics that restrict oxygen or blood flow to the head or neck unless deadly force is authorized,” the MDPS policy states.
The newspaper also asked the sheriff’s office how often deputies are trained in the use of force. That question was not answered by press time Wednesday.
The News Herald asked MDPS Chief Tony Lowdermilk the same question.
Lowdermilk said in an email Wednesday that the department trains several times a year on a variety of different uses of force including using hands, Tasers, firearms and drivers training. The department also takes de-escalation training every year, and subject control and arrest techniques and baton trainings take place every other year.
Deputies with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office do not wear body cameras. Whisenant has requested funds to purchase those for deputies from the Burke County Board of Commissioners, but those requests have been declined.
This is a developing story. More information will be published as it becomes available.