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APD chief moves to fire officer in chokehold case

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APD incident

A video, shot two days after the city of Anderson announced it had banned chokeholds by its police force, shows an officer applying a chokehold during the arrest of Spencer Dakota Nice.

ANDERSON — Anderson’s police chief has recommended the firing of an officer who has been suspended since using a banned chokehold to subdue a suspect during a June arrest.

In a summary of an internal Anderson police investigation, Chief Jake Brown said that his decision to seek Officer Brandon Reynolds’ termination is based on the officer violating rules, neglecting or disobeying orders, taking action injurious to public peace and welfare, and engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer.

Two days before the June 13 incident, the Anderson Police Department, spurred by the national protest movement against police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, announced a ban on chokeholds to subdue suspects.

The Anderson Board of Public Safety considered Brown’s recommendation Wednesday and voted to suspend Reynolds without pay until an Aug. 17 hearing. Before the safety board’s decision, Reynolds had been on paid leave.

The Herald Bulletin obtained a summary of the internal investigation of Reynolds from city attorney Paul Podlejski.

The investigation began after a video of the June 13 arrest of Spencer Nice went viral on social media.

While on patrol at twilight that evening, Reynolds heard loud noises that he believed might be gunshots. (The internal probe later determined “the noise he heard was likely firecrackers.”)

The officer drove to the immediate area to investigate and encountered Nice, his father, his girlfriend and another girl walking in the vicinity of 31st and Noble streets.

The officer reported that he saw Spencer Nice throw an object against a building.

The internal investigation determined Reynolds acted properly in asking each of the four people to identify themselves and in patting down Nice and his father.

Reynolds found no weapons, no outstanding warrants and no damage to the building, according to the report.

“Therefore, at this point Reynolds had no cause to believe that a crime was or was about to be committed,” the report reads. “He should have ended his investigation.”

The report states that Officer Ashley Gravely, who had arrived at the scene to assist Reynolds, remembered that Spencer Nice was a suspect in a hit-and-run accident.

“Reynolds then decided to place him (Spencer) into cuffs,” the report reads. “The reasoning, under the known facts, is unclear. He was not arresting him for the hit-and-run, as he admittedly did not have probable cause.”

After Nice requested that a family member take his phone, the video shows, Reynolds suddenly wrapped an arm around his neck and took him to the pavement. With Gravely’s help, Reynolds pinned Nice down and handcuffed him.

“Spencer would have had the legal right to resist an illegal arrest,” the summary continues. “Assuming it was legal, was the force excessive?”

The report concludes that, since Nice did not resist, the use of force was excessive.

Gravely, who had been on paid leave since mid-June, was returned to active duty after the internal investigation. Podlejski said the probe did not sustain allegations against her.

Mike Anderson, president of the Anderson Fraternal Order of Police, disagreed Wednesday with the findings of the police department’s investigation of Reynolds. The officer, Anderson said, didn’t violate any police procedures.

Anderson cited at least two factors to justify Reynolds’ use of force: the Madison County prosecutor’s office and a judge have found probable cause for the filing of a resisting law enforcement charge against Nice, and Nice was a suspect in a hit-and-run.

Charges against Nice in the hit-and-run were forwarded Wednesday by Anderson police to the prosecutor’s office.

Any disciplinary action of more than five days against Reynolds would have to be approved by the three members of the safety board. Reynolds could appeal the board’s decision and request a hearing.

Reynolds and Gravely have been members of the police department for five years. No past disciplinary action has been taken against either officer, according to APD officials.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter

@KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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