TPD Releases Footage Of Man Who Died After Being Tased
The Tuscaloosa Police Department has released the full body camera footage of officers' interactions with a suspect who died Saturday morning hours after he was Tased during arrest.
You can watch the full footage below, which TPD has edited to conceal the man's nakedness, protect the identity of the officers involved and to remove radio audio concerning a non-related domestic violence case.
Both officers involved in the arrest have been placed on administrative leave pending an outside investigation of the case, but in a press conference Saturday afternoon, TPD Chief Brent Blankley said he believes the officers acted according to their training.
Blankley said getting into a fist-fight with an uncooperative suspect is "the last thing" any officer wants to do, and that when the suspect, 31-year-old Kendrell Antron Watkins, began struggling with officers trying to take him into custody on charges of criminal mischief and public indecency, training dictated they use less-lethal force to subdue him.
"I'm not going to sit here and second-guess the officers' decisions," Blankley said Saturday. "They used what they thought they needed to use at the time. We make split-second decisions and I'm not going to question anything they did and I don't believe you will either once you see the videos."
Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Hays Webb was also at the press conference and said he was proud after seeing the conduct of the officers in the footage below.
"I watched all of the video from beginning to end and I am extremely proud of the conduct, the decency, the human decency, the compassion and the professionalism of those police officers," Webb said. "That doesn't speak to any criminality -- some other group of people will make that determination, but it makes me proud the see the way they acted out there."
The arrest will be investigated by detectives in the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit, which is made up of officers from TPD, the county sheriff's office, UAPD and the Northport Police Department. No TPD detectives will be involved in investigating this case.
After the investigation is concluded, evidence will be presented to a grand jury, who will determine whether to bring charges against the officers involved.
Blankley said he is aware of high tensions and a poor perception of police around the country and reaffirmed a commitment to transparency in this case and all others.
"We want people to know we are being transparent. You see so many times in these incidents where people aren't releasing body cam footage, where they're not telling what happened," Blankley said. "We are. We're saying, 'Here.' Within 24 hours, we're telling you everything that happened and we're giving you the body cam footage."
Blankley and Webb both called for understanding, empathy and peace in the wake of a death they both called tragic.
"The mere fact that somebody has died in police custody does not mean that outrage is the appropriate response, though there are times when outrage and anger is clearly appropriate," Webb said. "I understand that."
Watkins admitted to officers that he had smoked "MoJo" Friday night, which Blankley said is a dangerous synthetic marijuana. He was treated by paramedics at the scene of his arrest in Tuscaloosa's West End and taken by ambulance to the hospital in Northport. Blankley said Watkins was conscious when he arrived at the hospital, but died around 90 minutes later, sometime around 3 a.m. Saturday.
A full autopsy and toxicology report has been ordered and will be conducted in the case.
Watch the released body camera footage below -- it does contain strong language and other content that viewers may find offensive.