Acting U.S. Attorney John E. Childress said his office was aware of the incident and had opened an investigation with the FBI.
“If the investigation reveals prosecutable violations of any federal criminal statutes, the Department will take appropriate action,” Childress said in a statement.
Huxley could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday at publicly listed phone numbers. The Indianapolis police union did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
The attention from federal authorities brings another level of scrutiny to the sergeant and potentially the police department as a whole. Generally, the Department of Justice becomes involved in local police accountability cases when investigators suspect that police may have violated a person’s constitutional rights or when they are probing a possible pattern of misconduct within a police force.
“We have received information that the U.S. attorney’s office have opened an investigation,” Genae Cook, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. “The IMPD continues to cooperate with the U.S. attorneys office and the FBI on this matter.”
Huxley, a 14-year police veteran, is facing one count each of official misconduct and battery. An internal investigation is ongoing.
In a news conference Tuesday, Police Chief Randal Taylor said Huxley should be removed from the force, calling his actions “outrageous” and “totally uncalled for.”
“My hope is that the community understands that when these things come to our attention, we’ll deal with them quickly,” Taylor said.
An affidavit filed in county court says Huxley was one of three officers who responded to a disorderly conduct report at a downtown monument the morning of Sept. 24. Vaughn was yelling, and one of the officers handcuffed him after he “refused to quiet down,” according to the affidavit.
Body-camera footage shows an officer, identified in the affidavit as Matthew Shores, ordering a handcuffed Vaughn to “lean back.” Vaughn, who is Black, says he can’t because the officer is holding his belt. At that point, Shores pushes him up a set of stairs and onto the pavement.
As the officer holds Vaughn to the ground by his collar, Huxley, who is White, can be seen stomping once on Vaughn’s face with his left foot. Seconds later, blood can be seen in Vaughn’s mouth.
“Stop. You’re done. You’re done,” Huxley says.
Vaughn was arrested and booked on charges of resisting law enforcement and disorderly conduct, both of which were later dismissed. The affidavit says that his booking photo shows “blood and/or a laceration to his lower lip.”
The incident came to police leaders’ attention about two weeks later during a routine investigation of whether the officers used excessive force, police said.
Detective Arleatha Marble of the department’s special-investigations unit wrote in the affidavit that she spoke with Vaughn, who told her he had been homeless for about a year and was practicing his free-speech rights in the city’s Monument Circle, a popular public gathering place, on the morning of his arrest.
According to the affidavit, Huxley can be heard in unreleased body-camera footage, saying he did not mean to kick Vaughn. “I was attempting to put my foot on his shoulder and I accidentally kicked him in his face,” he said, according to the affidavit.
Shores, the officer who handcuffed Vaughn, told another officer that the incident “looked very bad,” according to the affidavit.
Marble, the detective, said Shores told her he did not know why Huxley got involved. “I didn’t know what led up to it, he came up and it looked like his foot struck Jermaine Vaughn in the face,” he said, according to the affidavit.
Shores and Sgt. Christopher Kibbey, who was also at the scene, have been placed on administrative leave. The department is investigating previous use-of-force incidents involving the three officers. Police officials will also examine use-of-force incidents that Huxley reviewed in his capacity as a supervisor.
A community leader condemned the arrest.
“Atrocious, nefarious, dastardly, mean-spirited and ugly,” Lionel Rush, pastor of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, said of the video in an interview with Indianapolis-based NBC affiliate WTHR.
“To the credit of the chief, they are forthcoming,” Rush added, “and they didn’t need to be put in a headlock to do that.”
The city faced criticism and protests after police shot two Black men in May 2020 and after two officers struck a woman with batons during an arrest that year. After last summer’s nationwide racial justice uprising, the department tightened its use-of-force policy. Among other things, the new rules bar officers from using physical force against people “in restraints and under control.”
The scrutiny comes as police-accountability legislation has foundered in Washington. The Biden administration began under pressure to curb police violence after the nationwide uprising over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But bipartisan negotiations on a police bill collapsed late last month after lawmakers in Congress did not reach an agreement.