Friday, December 8, 2023

After officer takes down staff member having seizure, William & Mary Police complete internal review

Jones Hall. (WYDaily/ Courtesy William & Mary)
Jones Hall. (WYDaily/ Courtesy William & Mary)

William & Mary Police have concluded an internal review after an officer subdued a male college staff member who was having a seizure in June.

The review found the officer acted in accordance with departmental guidelines and training when dealing with the man, who was said to be combative, said William & Mary Police Department spokesperson Suzanne Clavet.

The man was restrained with a “standard grasp takedown” for his own safety, the review said, after the staff member allegedly hit the officer.

Clavet added an internal review is standard procedure whenever an individual is restrained in this manner.

“William & Mary officers always strive to assist our community members in a safe and effective manner,” William & Mary Police Chief Deb Cheesebro said in June. “As a department, we routinely review our protocols to ensure best practices and will do so in this case.  Our Department is committed to serving with integrity and professionalism.”

Police did not release the staff member’s name, citing Virginia Code 2.2-3706.

The incident report

In the incident report, the responding police officer said he felt the staff member was a threat to himself and others. The officer struggled to subdue the man, who was taken down multiple times and handcuffed after backup officers arrived.

William & Mary Police were called just before 9 a.m. June 18 to Jones Hall to assist paramedics treating a staff member who was having a seizure.

When the responding officer entered Room 201 he found between six and 10 people holding the staff member down in a chair. The man’s arms, shoulders and head were “spasming,” the officer said in the incident report.

One of the people in the room reportedly told the officer the staff member had, during his seizure, previously “went after” someone. The officer then ordered the man be released as he was worried the staff member could be injured by being held down.

After being released, the staff member stood up and began advancing toward the police officer while “stumbling and swinging his arms around.” The officer reported he was unsure if the staff member had control over his actions.

The man continued to advance despite the officer repeatedly telling him to stop. He began swinging at the officer and hit the officer’s temple with an open hand.

“At that time I attempted to escort [the staff member] to the ground using the standard grasp takedown with a pivot,” the officer said in the report, adding that he did so to prevent injuries to others.

The officer took control of the staff member, but during the takedown the officer said the man hit his head on a desk.

One of the same individuals the officer had told to release the staff member now told the officer to let go of the man. While the officer was distracted by the bystander, the staff member broke free and struck the officer in the groin.

The officer backed away in order to recover, but looked up to find the man coming at him again with arms swinging. The man had a blank look on his face and “appeared to not be all ‘there,’” the officer said.

He continued to tell the man to get back.

Medics arrived on scene and tried to clear the bystanders out of the room as the officer tried to “gain control” of the staff member in order to prevent any more harm.

Once again the officer took the staff member to the ground, pinning him on his back. The officer said the takedown was “partially successful.”

The staff member managed to get back up again, and medics requested additional support from William & Mary Police.

The officer then attempted to retake control of the situation with verbal commands, hand-control techniques and takedowns, none of which were successful.

“I contemplated additional use of force options,” the officer said in the report.

He then reached for his pepper spray to subdue the staff member, but was told not to use it by one of the other individuals present. The officer then put his pepper spray away to prevent the bystander from turning on him, the report says.

Two more officers arrived and the staff member was handcuffed.

After the staff member was restrained, police found a knife in his pocket. Clavet said the knife was a pocket knife less than 3 inches long, which is allowable on campus.

The staff member was placed on a stretcher and continued resisting while asking for help. Williamsburg medics escorted the man to Riverside Doctors’ Hospital.

No charges were filed against the staff member.

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