St. Joseph, MO – A bystander who recorded a now-viral video of St. Joseph police officers fighting with a combative suspect said he posted the footage to social media in order to “open up a dialogue” regarding the incident, The Kansas City Star reported (video below).
The altercation occurred outside Central High at approximately 6:30 p.m. on Apr. 16, when the St. Joseph Police Department received a report about a man “looking in vehicles and taking photos of younger females,” Captain Jeff Wilson told The Kansas City Star.
An officer encountered 31-year-old Zachary Smith in the area.
Bryan Briscoe, who was at the school for his daughter’s track meet, said he heard one of the officers arguing with Smith, and that the officer used pepper spray to subdue the combative man.
Briscoe then turned on his cell phone video camera, and ran to the area of the altercation.
“I turned my phone on and I ran up. I thought this was going to be a local video, and it went viral. I just filmed what I saw, and posted it,” Briscoe told The Kansas City Star. “People have no clue what’s going on right now. They’re so quick to assume that the guy was on meth.”
Smith admitted he had used methamphetamine and was “showing signs of usage,” Capt. Wilson told the News Press.
Briscoe, who made no attempt to assist the officer, recorded as a lone officer struggled to subdue Smith on the ground, the video showed.
A second officer arrived at the scene within seconds.
The officers issued commands for Smith to put his hands behind his back, but he continued to resist their efforts, and at one point was able to roll from his stomach to his back, the video showed.
One officer delivered several knee strikes to Smith’s abdomen. Smith began yelling for help, but refused to stop fighting with the officers.
After a Taser was deployed, Smith became more compliant, and several other officers arrived to help place him into handcuffs.
“They f**ked him up,” Briscoe said in the video.
“I told you to put your hands behind your back several times,” one officer could be heard telling Smith, just before officers placed the suspect in the back of a patrol vehicle.
Smith had a city warrant at the time of his arrest, and was also charged with resisting arrest, The Kansas City Star reported.
Briscoe subsequently posted the cell phone video to Facebook with the caption, “A MUST WATCH VIDEO!” The Kansas City Star reported.
“How it happened, there was no need for that,” he told the paper.
“I don’t want people fighting with each other,” Briscoe told the News Press. “I never expected this to happen. I just want a dialogue.”
He said he believed the officers used “some excessive force,” but acknowledged that Smith should not have resisted arrest.
“Should the dude have complied more? Yes, I can say that,” Briscoe told the News Press.
According to KQTV, Smith’s mother, Rhonda Evans, disputed officers’ claims that her son admitted to having been under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the altercation.
She argued that Smith had schizophrenia, and that he was experiencing a manic episode at the time of his arrest, The Kansas City Star reported.
“I’m at a complete loss here,” Evans said. “[He] is not violent at all. With this sickness, he gets manic, but he’s not violent.”
Smith’s family said they would be seeking legal representation, KQTV reported.
Investigation into the officers’ use of force was ongoing, and will be reviewed by department supervisors, as per protocol, a St. Joseph PD spokesperson told The Kansas City Star.
Watch footage of the officers’ altercation with Smith in the video below: