Dejuan Yourse was outside his mother’s house, sitting on the front porch in Greensboro, N.C., when two police officers arrived.
They’d received a report about a possible burglary and a man with a shovel trying to open a house’s garage. When they saw Yourse on the porch, they asked what he was doing and why he was there.
Yourse explained that he didn’t have a key to his mother’s house and he was waiting for her to get home. When one of them seemed suspicious, Yourse tried to get the officer on the phone with his mother, but the call rolled to voice mail. He also told him to talk to neighbors to verify his identity.
The confrontation between Yourse, who is black, and the white officer, Travis Cole — captured in body cameras — started out as a cordial conversation, but it escalated after only a few minutes. The June incident resulted in an internal affairs investigation by the Greensboro Police Department, which found that Cole used excessive force on Yourse and violated other agency rules when he punched and violently arrested the 36-year-old man, who had not committed a crime.
Last August, two months after the incident, Cole resigned. The other officer involved in the incident, Officer C.N. Jackson, left her post last week, according to media reports.
The body-camera footage, which has since been made public, showed Cole asking Yourse questions about where he lives, why he was sitting outside, whether he has any warrants against him and why he has prison tattoos. Yourse, who started to become agitated, admitted that he’d been in prison before. As the two talked, Jackson went to her patrol car to verify Yourse’s identity.
At one point, Cole took Yourse’s phone from his hand as he was talking to someone. Moments later, Cole punched Yourse in the face.
“You can’t do that! What are you doing?!” Yourse said “You didn’t have to punch me in my eye!”
“Yes I did!” Cole responded.
Cole then forced Yourse to the ground, as the latter kept screaming: “I’m not resisting! I’m not resisting! I am not resisting!”
“You are resisting the whole time!” Cole said.
At that point, Yourse appeared to be either sitting down or on his knees as Cole held his arms behind his back.
“Why are you doing this to me? I’m trying to cooperate, man! You can’t do that when I’m not resisting you!” Yourse said, as he sat on the ground.
Minutes later, Yourse was on his stomach on his mother’s front lawn, handcuffed. Cole placed his right knee on Yourse’s shoulder.
“Do not f—- move. Don’t say another damn word,” Cole told Yourse, who had been yelling and cursing.
“This is ridiculous, man,” Yourse said.
“Damn right it is,” Cole responded.
During a special meeting by the Greensboro City Council on Sept. 26, Mayor Nancy Vaughn called Cole’s actions “ugly,” “brutal” and “completely unnecessary.”
Yourse was charged with resisting arrest and assault on a government official, according to media reports. Charges were later dropped.
During the City Council meeting, Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott said the charges were questionable.
An internal affairs investigation, which was completed on Aug. 30, found that Cole violated the Greensboro Police Department’s rules on use of force, courtesy toward the public, arrest, search and seizure, and compliance with laws and regulations. Cole resigned from his position while the investigation was pending, Scott said during the City Council meeting.
The Washington Post called a cell number registered under Cole but did not receive a call back. A relative of Yourse’s reached by The Post said he does not want to talk.
The police department also began a criminal investigation on Cole, but the Guilford County district attorney’s office declined to file charges.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann did not return a call from The Post on Monday, but he told the Greensboro News & Record last week that Cole did not commit a crime. Law enforcement officers are entitled to use whatever amount of force they deemed necessary to arrest someone they believed committed a crime, Neumann told the paper.
“To charge him would be a violation of my role as a prosecutor,” Neumann said.
The Greensboro City Council adopted a resolution last week stating that the police department will ask the district attorney’s office to review the incident again. City officials also recommended to a state commission to revoke Cole’s law enforcement certification indefinitely. If that happens, he will no longer be able to be a law enforcement officer.
According to the News & Record, Cole, along with 15 other officers, had been approved for a promotion before his encounter with Yourse. The promotion took effect on Aug. 1, the paper reported. Last week, City Manager Jim Westmoreland placed a 30-day hold on the promotions of any officers involved in the incidents surrounding Cole. It’s unclear how many officers were affected by the hold.
Carla Banks, a city spokeswoman, said the promotion was a noncompetitive process and was based on the number of years of service.
Greensboro, where Yourse lives, is about 90 miles northeast of Charlotte, where the shooting death of a black man at the hands of a police officer last month prompted nights of riots and ignited an already tense relationship between law enforcement and the African American community.
According to The Washington Post’s database, police have fatally shot 719 people this year. In 2015, 991 people were shot by police.
A combination of footage from Cole’s and Jackson’s body cameras was shown to the public for the first time during the Sept. 26 City Council meeting. After the video was played, the mayor, council members and the police chief publicly apologized to Yourse, who was in attendance.
“It’s hard to watch a video like that and not feel moved to do something and try to make it right to a degree,” City Council member Justin Outling said.
Scott said the incident “is not indicative of what we as a police department want our citizens to experience.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, “and it was wrong.”