Police in Charlotte, NC, have concluded that the violent arrest of an unarmed man last year “did not violate department policies and or directives” after footage of the incident was made public by the victim this week.
Video taken from a body camera shows James Yarborough on the ground as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Jon Dunham holds a gun to his head, saying, “I will kill you.” According to local station WBTV, Yarborough had been a passenger in a car that police were pursuing over a series of thefts in the area. When the car was pulled over, Yarborough ran, leading the police on a four-minute chase that ended in his arrest.
Warning: disturbing footage.
“The only thing I did wrong that day was run. That is the only thing I did wrong that day,” Yarborough told WBTV. “I regret running.”
The station reports that Yarborough has several gun-related charges on his criminal record. According to Yarborough, he had been picked up by the car after his vehicle ran out of gas. While getting a ride, Yarborough claimed the driver had offered to sell him a pistol (one was reportedly found in the vehicle by police) and, after having been pulled over, he decided to run, rather than face another potential firearms charge.
During the arrest, as seen in the body camera footage, Yarborough can be heard pleading with the officers as one threatens to “light him up.” Yarborough is then Tasered and beaten while lying on the ground. (You can see a longer clip of the incident here.)
In a police report obtained by WBTV, Officer Dunham wrote:
…I struck Yarborough with my right elbow in a ‘dropping’ elbow style strike. The first elbow strike was aimed for the mid scapula region but Yarborough moved and I accidentally grazed his head.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department provided a lengthy statement to local station WSOC about the incident:
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit conducted an investigation concerning the circumstances involving a use of force case that occurred March 26, 2016, involving Officer Jon Dunham.
During the incident, Officer Dunham engaged in a foot pursuit with James Yarborough, a suspect who was detained during a felony car stop and ran from officers. Officer Dunham and other officers pursued the suspect on foot for more than three minutes before they subsequently caught up with him.
Officer Dunham and other officers attempted to arrest the suspect who was resisting and refused officers commands to comply and show them both of his hands to ensure that he did not have a gun. Officer Dunham subsequently drew his service weapon and pointed it at the suspect in order to gain compliance and place him under arrest.
After nearly a four minute struggle, the officers were able to take Mr. Yarborough into custody.
An internal investigation concluded that due to the totality of the events, Officer Dunham’s use of force did not violate department policies and or directives. It was recommended that Officer Dunham receive additional verbal communication training following the incident. Prior to adjudication, Officer Dunham resigned from the CMPD.
A gun was also located in the passenger area of where Mr. Yarborough was seated during the car stop. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon and resisting arrest. Both of those charges were later dismissed.
It was unclear how Yarborough had obtained the footage that he released. He told WSOC that he wanted it public because, in his words, “I got a gun put to my head.” According to the station, Yarborough is now looking for legal representation for a possible lawsuit against the police department stemming from his arrest.