Greenville’s police chief said Monday that he has asked state agents to investigate after two of his officers Tased an autistic man who had apparently fled from them out of fear.
Chief Ken Miller said the department also agreed to drop the resisting arrest charges against 34-year-old Tario Anderson after learning more about his situation.
During a press conference with reporters on Monday, Miller said he had asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate the incident. The inquiry would occur at the same time as an internal review already underway at the agency, he said. The review was launched after Anderson’s mother Carolyn filed a complaint of excessive force and also spoke with several news outlets about the treatment of her son.
“Because there is an allegation by Mrs. Anderson of excessive force against her son, that essentially is an allegation of assault,” Miller said. He was confident that the officers followed department policy, however.
Greenville Police said the officers responded to calls of gunshots being fired in the neighborhood just southwest of downtown. When they arrived on the scene shortly after midnight Wednesday, they noticed Tario Anderson walking by himself nearby. A police spokesman said the officers reported that Anderson saw them and turned around to walk in the opposite direction. Anderson did not respond to three different orders to stop as they began chasing him, the spokesman said, and one of the officers eventually fired his Taser. Anderson was charged with resisting arrest and interfering with police, according to court records.
During the arrest, a bystander began filming the incident on a cell phone. The video showed Anderson on the ground screaming for his mother after being Tased and handcuffed. The video also shows his mother confronting the responding officers, insisting her son had autism. She later told WYFF-TV that she even cursed at the officers in an attempt to be arrested along with her son.
Miller defended the actions of his officers, saying they did not know that Anderson was autistic. But he said that does not mean officials believe the arrest was unlawful at this point.
“It just means that, given his mental condition, it would be inappropriate to prosecute him and it would be inappropriate for his record to reflect the arrest,” he told reporters.
The leader of the Greenville NAACP J.M. Flemming appeared with Chief Miller on Monday. Flemming urged the African-American community to remain calm during the investigation, adding he was aware that threats had been made against police over the incident. “I want to urge and caution the community: Please give us a chance,” he said. “We’re watching the process. We’re following the process.”
Miller said the officers involved will remain on the job during the investigation.