Knox County cop fired immediately after photos show brutal choking of student

Usually, after charges of police brutality, police officials take their time reacting while they follow procedure to determine who did what. But this episode in Knoxville, Tenn., was so extreme and well-documented that the local sheriff fired the officer immediately.

Frank Phillips, a Knox County Sheriff’s officer, was fired Sunday night after a series of pictures taken by photographer John Messner were published in the Daily Mail in Britain. They showed an officer identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Phillips grabbing 21-year-old college student Jarod Dotson around the neck and squeezing him until he fell to his knees.


An officer identified by the Sheriff’s office as Frank Phillips is seen choking college student Jarod Dotson while he was being arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest. (John Messner)

WBIR reports that law enforcement responded to a “disturbance” near the University of Tennessee where a house party with about 800 people had reportedly become unruly and spilled out into the street.

According to a police report, Dotson ignored repeated instructions to go inside, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. Deputy Brandon Gilliam wrote in the official report that Dotson “began to physically resist officers’ instructions to place his hands behind his back, and at one point grabbed on to an officer’s leg.”

Messner, a freelance photographer who documented the incident, told The Washington Post that Dotson showed no signs of resisting arrest.

Messner’s still pictures, arranged by The Post in the GIF below, show two officers cuffing Dotson’s hands behind his back when Phillips came over and choked Dotson until he collapsed to his knees. Messner said that as Dotson was being pulled up he was smacked in the back of the head, “a snap-out-of-it kinda smack under the circumstances.”


An officer identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Frank Phillips is seen choking college student Jarod Dotson while he was being arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest. (John Messner)

Jarod Dotson was charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest. He was released from jail on a $500 bond Sunday morning.

In a press release on Sunday night, Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones said:

“In my 34 years of law enforcement experience, excessive force has never been tolerated. After an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, I believe excessive force was used in this incident. The investigation will now be turned over to the Knox County Attorney General’s Office to determine any further action.”

Nick Kirkpatrick is a digital photo editor at The Washington Post. Follow him on Instagram or on Twitter.
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