ANDERSON — A man who was put in a police chokehold plans to file a formal complaint asking for two Anderson police officers to be fired.
Spencer Dakota Nice, 21, was taken to the ground Saturday evening by Anderson Police Department Officer Brandon Reynolds as Officer Ashley Gravely assisted.
A 42-second video, taken by Nice’s girlfriend, of the incident shows Reynolds squeezing an arm around Nice’s neck, a potentially lethal maneuver that had been banned by APD Chief Jake Brown just two days before.
Brown has placed Reynolds and Gravely on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation.
In a joint statement Monday evening, Brown and Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. said that Nice had been arrested for suspicious behavior after Reynolds heard gunshots while he was patrolling about 9 p.m. in the 3000 block of Noble Street.
In the video, Reynolds, standing behind Nice, suddenly reaches over Nice’s shoulder and squeezes the smaller man’s neck between his forearm and bicep, twisting Nice around and taking him to the pavement, where Gravely helps restrain him.
Reynolds, as shown in the video, pushes with a hand on the back of Nice’s neck, forcing his face into the pavement. Both officers use their knees, one in the middle of Nice’s back and one pressing against his legs, as they twist Nice’s arms behind his back to handcuff him.
Nice doesn’t appear, in any portion of the video, to resist the arrest.
“I was surprised,” Nice said Monday. “It came out of nowhere. It all happened so fast.”
Since bystanders caught on video the May 25 death of George Floyd, who repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” as a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck, millions of people have joined in demonstrations across the nation to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
In reaction, police departments have been reviewing and revising their protocols for suspect restraint. Broderick and Brown on Thursday announced the APD ban on the use of chokeholds during an arrest.
“While we are still in the review process of our policies and procedures, we have determined that we are banning the use of chokeholds by police to restrain or control a suspect,” a portion of the two-page statement read.
According to the joint statement released Monday evening, the Saturday arrest of Nice occurred when Reynolds, after hearing what he believed were gunshots, saw Nice walking with three other people in the area. Nice and his father, Van Nice, later said that someone had been lighting firecrackers in the neighborhood.
Reynolds saw Nice “throwing something black up against the side of a factory warehouse,” according to the joint statement. Nice later denied the accusation.
After Gravely arrived to assist Reynolds in taking Nice into custody, Nice resisted arrest and was “taken to the ground by ... Reynolds,” the statement reads.
The mayor and police chief acknowledged that Reynolds appeared to violate the department’s ban on chokeholds.
“The policy stated on Thursday has in no way been modified,” they said in the joint statement. “We expect all officers to follow this directive. Additionally, we expect all officers to follow proper policy when engaging with the public.”
Brown could seek additional disciplinary action against Reynolds, depending on the outcome of the investigation. The police chief and mayor did not say whether the probe would be conducted by the APD or an outside police agency.
Evidence will be submitted to the city’s Board of Public Safety, which would conduct a hearing and give approval for any discipline greater than a five-day suspension, according to the statement.
“While we want to fairly review all of the evidence we are disturbed by what is shown in the video,” the statement reads. “The department will not tolerate the use of improper force. We will promptly act in such cases and take appropriate action for any such violations.”
‘A COMPLETE SHOCK’
After spending six hours in a holding cell, Nice said, he was released from the Madison County Jail early Sunday morning on his own recognizance.
Nice said he had been walking with family members Saturday just before dusk in the vicinity of 32nd and George streets when Reynolds stopped his squad car and started asking his father, Van, questions.
Police read Nice his rights while he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, Nice said.
“They didn’t say anything,” Nice said of the officers. “They wouldn’t answer me. I didn’t know why I was arrested until they released me.”
Over the past six years, Nice has been charged with possession of methamphetamine and marijuana, speeding and several instances of driving without a license, in Clinton County. Many of the charges, including the meth charge, were later dismissed.
Twice he’s been charged with resisting arrest in Clinton County and, in one case, he pleaded guilty.
“It was almost the same (expletive) that went on here,” Nice said of an arrest in Frankfort. “I was walking down the street, and then they came and slammed me on the ground.”
Nice lives in Frankfort but has been staying with his father in Anderson over the past few weeks, his father said.
“I’ve never been in any trouble in Anderson, I just got here,” Nice said. “I don’t know any of these cops.”
Van Nice expressed frustration, saying that Reynolds wouldn’t tell him and his son why he was confronting them Saturday.
Reynolds questioned and frisked Van Nice, he said, before the officer turned his attention to his son.
“I asked if we were being detained and he said no,” Van Nice said. “They wouldn’t give us any information. They handcuffed (Spencer Nice) and that’s when (Reynolds) grabbed him.”