On August 24, officers with the DeKalb Police Department in northern Illinois approached a man they suspected of possessing cannabis. Police say the suspect, 25-year-old Elonte McDowell, tried to flee and resist arrest. But cell phone footage of the arrest shows a different story, with police tazing and choking the man unconscious on the ground. The video, captured by McDowell’s girlfriend and posted to Facebook with the caption “Right or wrong?”, quickly went viral. Now, the officer who tazed and choked McDowell unconscious for possessing cannabis is on a temporary administrative leave while the DeKalb Police Department investigates his use of excessive force.
Cell Phone Video Captures Cops Choking and Tazing Marijuana Suspect
The puncture marks on Elonte McDowell’s chest where police tazed him during a marijuana arrest are still healing. And McDowell is still shaken up from an encounter with police that ended with him passing out in a choke hold. But a video of the brutal arrest made it onto social media, where it received more than 4,000 reactions as of Wednesday night.
In the video, as McDowell begins losing consciousness, you can hear his girlfriend plead with DeKalb police. “He has a pulse, right? Like, you guys, can you make sure that he has a pulse? ‘Cause look at his face’,” she says.
The controversial police tactic of chokeholds was banned in Illinois in 2015 along with a number of other excessive uses of force. Indeed, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo killed New York resident Eric Garner in 2014 after placing Garner in a chokehold for allegedly selling cigarettes. It took five years for the city of New York to hold Pantaleo accountable. On August 19, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill fired Pantaleo and stripped him of his pension benefits.
Elonte McDowell, who was fortunate enough to survive his encounter with police, wants the DeKalb officers who used a banned chokehold on him to be similarly held accountable.
“This is what some police officers do and you have to put a stand on it,” McDowell told reporters. “If your fellow officer is doing something incorrect you need to be like, ‘Hey! You guys just tazed him or you’re choking him, Stop that’,” McDowell added.
Police Investigating Officer’s Use of Excessive Force
In light of the incident, the DeKalb Police Department released a statement about McDowell’s arrest on Tuesday. The statement says police received a tip that McDowell was in possession of “a load of drugs,” and officers say they recovered a “felony amount of cannabis.”
The statement doesn’t specify exactly how many grams of weed McDowell had on him. But based on the charges filed against him, it could have been as little as 10 grams. In Illinois, felony possession charges don’t kick in until a second offense of carrying more than 30 grams. But if officers decide a person intended to sell or traffic that cannabis, felony charges kick in at just 10 grams. In other words, less than three eighths of weed.
Police charged McDowell with unlawful possession of cannabis with the intent to deliver, unlawful possession of cannabis, criminal trespass to property and resisting arrest. But even though McDowell admits he was in possession of cannabis, he denies resisting arrest and feels the officer who tazed and choked him should be penalized. “It’s not OK,” McDowell said. “It happened one too many times. This happens every day.”
In light of the viral video contradicting police accounts of the arrest, the Dekalb Police Department has opened an investigation into excessive use of force by its officers. Illinois legalized the sale and consumption of cannabis on June 25 this year.