Punk on the city payroll
Caught on Camera: JPD officer suspended after seen dragging unresponsive man
By Keli McAlister
JACKSON, Tenn. -- An assault by a Jackson police officer caught on camera, that’s how Milan attorney Tim Crocker describes surveillance video captured at U.S. Donuts on North Highland Avenue in Jackson.
Crocker represents a 58-year-old man who suffered scrapes and abrasions in an Oct. 1, 2014, encounter with police officers. The man, who asked we not use his name, says he does not remember what happened. But after the man’s daughter saw his injuries, she called the Jackson Police Department, ultimately prompting an internal investigation.
The reason for his lack of memory — the man had lapsed into a diabetic coma, according to his attorney. The man said he remembers getting tired and asking to sit inside the doughnut shop to rest. Unable to get him to leave as closing time came and went, the owners called police for help.
The time stamp on the surveillance video showed the first two officers — Brandon Bankston and Kyle Cupples — arrive at 2:48 p.m. A few minutes later a third officer, Kenneth Reeves, arrives.
As with the owners, the man would not respond to officers’ questions or their request to stand up. That is when the officers said they decided to pick him up and take him outside. Video shows Bankston and Cupples take an arm each and carry him out. The man appeared to stay in a seated position with his feet dragging on the floor.
As they are carrying him out the door, the video shows Reeves kick the man’s feet three separate times. He told internal investigators, even after watching the video, he did not recall doing that. Once outside, Bankston and Cupples placed the man on the concrete sidewalk.
"The most striking thing is the fact that he's totally helpless and without any provocation of any kind," Crocker said. "He was assaulted."
Minutes later when the owners tried to leave, they were unable to open the door because the man was lying in front of it. The video shows one of the owners go to the window and appear to talk with Reeves, who is standing the closest.
Reeves is then seen walking over to the man, picking up one of his feet and dragging him several feet across the concrete sidewalk. The man never spoke or came out of the tense position he had been in since being placed on the ground. Before learning about the surveillance video, Reeves told investigators he had only pulled the man about six inches.
After several more minutes of the man lying unresponsive, the officers said they decided to call for an ambulance. After medics arrived, the officers reported finding a medic alert necklace around the man's neck denoting he is diabetic.
In the ambulance, EMTs were able to regulate his blood sugar level. The report shows one of the EMTs even bought him a piece of pizza at the neighboring Little Caesar’s. The man declined to be taken to the hospital, instead agreeing to let Officers Bankston and Cupples take him home.
On Oct. 1, Bankston was questioned about the incident by an internal affairs investigator. Cupples was questioned Oct. 2, and Reeves spoke with the investigator Oct. 3. An official internal investigation into Reeves was launched on that same day. The inquiry was into whether he had violated the department regulation regarding personal conduct and the general order regarding use of force.
Reeves was formally interviewed Oct. 7 as part of the investigation. That is when he learned there was surveillance video of the incident, and he was allowed to view it.
On Nov. 10, Capt. Rick Holt found Reeves had violated the personal conduct policy, and Reeves was suspended without pay for 12 days. He also was assigned to non-law enforcement status, or desk duty, for three months.
Reeves’ suspension ran from Nov. 11 to Nov. 25. However, his desk duty was cut short. On Dec. 5, an internal memo shows Interim Chief Julian Wiser terminated that portion of his punishment, effective immediately.
Wiser declined our request for an interview, instead referring all questions to legal adviser Major Thom Corley.
"I just wish folks wouldn't make some type of an assumption that there's a discrepancy or that there's an assumption that there's a weak investigative process, because that's far from the truth," Corley said.
Since his hiring on Aug. 27, 2007, this is the first negative mark on Reeves’ record. Still, the man’s attorney argues the punishment was not harsh enough. Crocker argues not only should Reeves have been fired, but he believes he should face criminal charges as well.