Body camera footage captured something entirely different. In the footage, Parscale is seen shirtless and speaking calmly to an officer. While the police report describes him as ignoring commands and possibly having a gun in his pocket, Parscale is seen in the recording as standing still, talking lucidly and not reaching for anything. He was tackled four seconds after first being told to drop to the ground.
The footage captured what experts say is a bleakly familiar incident and outcome, involving police called about someone in crisis and responding with a sudden burst of force.
“What are cops trained to do?” said Christopher Slobogin, a law professor at Vanderbilt University. “They’re trained to use force. Acting completely in good faith and not ascribing any bad motives to them, they do what they’re trained to do.”
The encounter came after a summer of racial justice protests decrying how police treat people of color, spurred by video footage of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. It was a wave of demonstrations in cities across the country that Trump and some of his allies dismissed. The footage of Parscale being taken down by police, meanwhile, involved one of the country’s most prominent conservative political operatives, who months earlier had been managing the president’s reelection bid before he was ousted.
Authorities took Parscale to Broward Health Medical Center under the Baker Act, a Florida law that allows authorities to detain and treat someone believed to be a threat to themselves or others. Police did not respond to a message Tuesday asking if Parscale would face any charges connected with the incident, including for the domestic abuse allegations included in the report.
Attempts to reach Parscale and his wife, Candice, have been unsuccessful since the incident Sunday. It was unclear if either had an attorney in the matter, and a lawyer who previously worked with them did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Some who had criticized policing practices pointed to the Parscale video in arguing that it further emphasized their complaints about law enforcement being too quick to use force at times when physical aggression might not be necessary. And while many conservative voices and Trump allies are often quick to defend police, some were critical of the officers’ actions in this particular case.
“This would be a very useful image for everyone to see,” Slobogin said. “Because it’s a White guy being treated the way we’ve seen a lot of Black individuals treated by the police in recent months.”
Experts say the episode again highlights how frequently police have to respond to calls about people in crisis, and how some of the calls can have violent or even deadly results.
Since 2015, more than 1 in 5 people who were fatally shot by police officers were suffering a mental health crisis at the time, according to a Washington Post database. Policing experts say officers might not be the best-equipped to handle many cases of people in crisis, and calls to cut police funding this summer also urged officials to divert money instead to social services, including for mental health.
On Sunday, police were called to Parscale’s Fort Lauderdale home “in reference to a suicide attempt” in which a woman reported that her husband “possibly shot himself,” Officer Timothy Skaggs wrote in an incident report.
Candice Parscale told police she fled the home, heard a bang and then realized Brad Parscale had not shot himself after hearing him “ranting and pacing around the residence,” Skaggs wrote. She also told police bruises on her arms came from “a physical altercation” with her husband a few days earlier.
Sgt. Matthew Moceri wrote in his report that when he responded to a call for on-duty SWAT personnel, he was told Parscale was still believed to be armed. Moceri wrote that his team was ordered “to move in and physically detain the subject.”
Moceri wrote that after Parscale was coaxed outside, he gave Parscale loud verbal commands to get on the ground but was ignored. Describing Parscale as a significantly larger man who was “disobeying my lawful commands” and could have had a gun in his pocket, Moceri said he moved to tackle him.
Body-worn camera footage showed that four seconds elapsed between the first of four quick orders for Parscale to get down and the moment he was tackled. Parscale, who emerged holding a beer he then set down while he was talking to a police officer, is seen speaking calmly, hands hanging loosely by his side, as another officer suddenly ordered him to get down.
On the ground, Parscale exclaimed, “I didn’t do anything.”
Dennis Kenney, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former Florida police officer, said it looked like Parscale did not have time to process the officers’ orders.
“It looked to me like a guy who’d probably had too much to drink,” Kenney said. “Knowing obviously who he is, he’s in a high-stress sort of world. Probably had a domestic dispute. . . . When he came out, he didn’t seem combative.”
Kenney said it would be one thing if Parscale was acting aggressively or threatening, but he appeared to be just talking to a police officer. Kenney also dismissed the suggestion that Parscale might have had a gun hidden on him, noting that such a weapon would have been clearly visible in his pocket, and said he was struck by Parscale’s comments about not having done anything once he was tackled.
“It reminded me of many of the videotapes of Black males that have been taken down using the same language,” Kenney said.
Fort Lauderdale police did not respond to questions Tuesday, referring back to the reports and the footage the department has released.
Eugene A. Paoline III, a criminal justice professor at the University of Central Florida, said that while the use of force appeared sudden, “it didn’t look like inappropriate behavior,” based on what officers at the scene already knew about Parscale’s guns and potential risks.
“What we’re seeing, there was no active resistance, there was no fighting, he was showing deference,” Paoline said. But “given the information that was provided to them, they wanted to ensure there was going to be no continuation of the encounter.”
Police would likely deem what happened a success because Parscale, his wife and the officer all walked away, he said.
More encounters will likely be recorded and made public due to the increasing number that will be filmed, said Slobogin, the Vanderbilt law professor.
“We, meaning the public generally, have been given a ringside seat that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” he said. “And it’s because of the advent of smartphones and body cameras. But this kind of thing has been going on for a long time.”
Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker contributed to this report.