FAIRFAX COUNTY, VIRGINIA: A white police officer in Virginia was charged with assault after body camera footage showed him using “unacceptable” force as he tased a disoriented black man and knelt on his back as the man screamed, “I can’t breathe.”
The disturbing footage was released by the Fairfax County Police Department on Saturday, June 6, showing the police officer, identified as Tyler Timberlake, using excessive force on the black man, who has not been identified. The incident comes amid widespread protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd, an unarmed black man, died when a cop kneeled on his neck as Floyd said he could not breathe.
The latest footage of the incident in Virginia begins with an unidentified Fairfax police officer interacting with a man who appears to be disoriented and pacing a residential street. The man, however, does not appear to be either vocalizing threats against anyone or violently approaching the officers.
Watch the disturbing video here.
The bodycam footage shows EMTs and an ambulance nearly as the unidentified officer asks the man if he needs oxygen. One EMT states: “I’m here to help you, just tell me what you need.” The man, however, continues to pace and mumble words when Officer Timberlake arrives at the scene in a police cruiser, approaches the man, and without any warning uses a stun gun on him. This results in the man screaming out in pain as he falls to the ground.
Timberlake then presses his knee into the man’s back and tells him to relax while appearing to strike him with the stun gun again when he does not comply. The footage, for a brief moment, is covered, however, the sound of a stun gun can be heard in the background, and soon it shows Timberlake aiming the taser at the man’s back. The video shows at least four officers wrestling with the man as she screams “No!” and says “I can’t breathe” as they all tower over him. After he repeatedly stated he can not breathe, the officers handcuff him and roll him over.
Shortly before the release of the footage by the police department, Timberlake was arrested on three counts of assault and battery in connection to the incident. The officer, an eight-year law enforcement veteran, reportedly faces up to 36 months in prison if convicted. Meanwhile, other officers involved in the incident have been “relieved of duty” as a criminal and administrative probe is underway.
The Fairfax County Police, in a statement on Facebook, said: “As an officer attempted to deescalate the situation that was underway, PFC Timberlake arrived shortly after and used force that is unacceptable.”
Fairfax County Police Chief, Colonel Edwin C Roessler Jr, in a press conference about the incident, said that the Timberlake violated the department’s policies with “horrible use of force.” The chief said that Timberlake committed “criminal acts” that “violate our oath of office’ and ‘ignore the sanctity of human life,” CNN reported.
“The video also erodes the public’s trust of police officers, not only in Fairfax County, but throughout this world. These acts are unacceptable,” Roessler added. He reportedly contacted the victim and his mother after the incident and shared his “disgust” with Timberlake’s alleged actions and assured her that “justice will be served.”