Saturday, February 4, 2023

Controversial MTSU police altercation videos circulate on social media

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Story by Alyssa Williams | Contributing Writer

Video clips of four Middle Tennessee State University police officers apprehending a non-student attending what campus police termed a non-sanctioned student event have raised questions about the measure of force used by the officers.

But MTSU President Sidney McPhee said the clips circulating on social media “do not reflect the entirety of the situation.”

The apprehension of Marcellous Campbell, 34, of Dyer, Tennessee, on Oct. 5 at approximately 10:35 p.m., according to a statement by MTSU Police Chief Edwin Kaup, was shared widely across multiple social media platforms following the incident.

Officers stopped Campbell in the True Blue Avenue parking garage because his vehicle matched the description of a car that allegedly damaged the garage’s traffic control arm, according to Kaup. The car also smelled of marijuana, according to the chief.

Campus police then asked everyone in the vehicle to step out, but Campbell refused, according to the statement.  This prompted the officers to contact a supervisor, who told the officers they would have to remove Campbell from the vehicle.

One Instagram video seems to show two police officers attempting to pin Campbell, who appears to be unarmed, to the back of his vehicle. About five seconds in, a third officer approaches to help, and one of the officers that was already there appears to push Campbell’s head onto the car.

Watching from above were a number of students attending the event, many of whom could be seen filming the arrest of Campbell with their phones. 

Campbell appears to continue resisting, and he turns himself back around to face the officers approximately 17 seconds into the video. Approximately four seconds later, after Campbell appears to say something to the officers, one officer used pepper spray on Campbell, and a fourth officer appears in the frame of the video.

At approximately 26 seconds into the video, Campbell appears to wipe his face with his shirt, and the fourth officer attempts to restrain Campbell. As the two struggled, the other officers joined, and Campbell was forced to the ground on his back, pinned against a concrete wall.

While Campbell is pinned, one officer can be heard to say, “Stop resisting,” three times. He then said, “Get on the ground.” Then, “On your stomach.” Then, “Roll over.”

Then three officers appeared to force Campbell to roll over onto his stomach. Approximately 24 seconds of the struggle between Campbell and the officers on the ground is shown in this video.

In another video on TikTok apparently of the same incident, one officer appears to strike at something with his right knee, but the video does not show if Campbell was hit. Where this takes place in relation to the events of the other video is unclear.

Another non-student occupant of Campbell’s vehicle fled the scene and allegedly threw a bag containing narcotics over the garage wall, according to the statement by Kaup. A student later turned in the bag. A third non-student occupant left campus.

According to crime logs published by the university police department, officers reported resisting arrest, drug violation and vandalism as offenses committed at the time and location of Campbell’s arrest. As of now, he has been charged with resisting arrest and vandalism.

“University Police are continuing to review the incident and the investigation remains active,” according to the statement.

The event where the altercation occurred  was “Courtyard Wednesday,” according to Autumn Gray, a student who attended the event and witnessed the arrest. The event is a social gathering that’s similar to a tradition at many historically Black colleges and universities. The Oct. 5 event was the second Wednesday that a crowd of students had gathered on campus. The number of people who attended the event was unclear in the videos of the incident.

On Friday morning, President Sidney McPhee sent an email to students about the incident and the attention it gained on social media.

“In this case, individuals who are not part of our University family, are accused of trespassing on our campus, damaging property and, despite repeated requests, failing to comply with our police when they were stopped and questioned,” McPhee said in the email. “As a result, one arrest was made and the offending individuals were banned from campus.” 

McPhee acknowledged he was briefed by Kaup. The university president said he believed that the officers “responded quickly to the situation and handled the situation professionally and effectively; assuring the safety of students and others in the area.”

To contact News Editor Matthew Giffin and Assistant News Editor Kailee Shores, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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