Viral arrest video: Retired sheriff’s captain says officers went too far

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A viral video of a physical encounter between police and a man with a warrant out for his arrest has racked up thousands of views on social media.

The man, identified as Erion Walker, was taken into custody due to a felony warrant.

The confrontation happened at Rayford’s All-In-One Hot Wings on Third Street in the Westwood neighborhood.

The approach police used to take the man in is what has people talking.

The actions are pushing many across the city to question whether officers went too far in the arrest.

Walker was wanted for charges of aggravated assault and vandalism, accused of beating up his girlfriend and allegedly damaging her car last week.

The video reached more than 11,000 views by the end of Tuesday.

Organizers of “Cops, Clippers and Conversations”, a group that works to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community, weighed in on the controversial video clip, sharing with FOX13 what they got from the widely spread incident.

“When I heard the gentleman that was in the shop that was recording it, the fear he had in his voice,” said Marcus Taylor, Community Moderator of Clippers and Cops. “The concern he had in his voice; that video mimics some of the things that we’ve seen over the past few years that have been happening to African American men and women across this country.”

Clippers and Cops hold discussions and forums between officers and citizens, one Thursday of each month inside area barber shops.

One topic that’s often the subject of heated conversation is that of interactions and strained relationships between police and the community.

“Clippers and Cops gives us an opportunity to have conversations with people in the community, especially those who go to the barber shop that say, ‘Hey man, this is what’s going on; I want to make things right with you. I want to make relationships good with us to where you don’t fear me, but you respect me and as a police officer, I have to respect you as well,” said Taylor.

The video goes on to show officers tussling with Walker; one of the officers appears to throw a blow at Walker’s face before kneeing him in the ribs. Eventually, a total of six officers responded to detain Walker.

“At this point, it’s two officers trying to subdue this man and they can’t, so it turns into a fight ultimately, so I don’t know what else they were supposed to do at that moment,” said Warren Triplett, a Memphis barber who recently took part in one of the Cops, Clippers and Conversations forum.

“There’s accountability on our end too,” Triplett adds. “Watching the video, the young man could have easily just cooperated and maybe there would have been nothing to show.”

Triplett said this type of incident demonstrates why they hold meetings with police and the community monthly.

“It wasn’t just a conversation. It wasn’t just ideas floating. This is a real issue that we are faced with in our community. That event showed people that police officers are human beings,” said Triplett.

Bennie Cobb, a veteran of the force, retired after 33 years in law enforcement, and now trains cops on proper procedures when encountering citizens.

Cobb said the interaction seen in the video was not handled properly by officers.

“In this case, from what I’ve seen on the video, there was some excessive force that should not have been used; let me rephrase that, there was some force that should not have been used,” said Cobb. “We have to be reminded of recent trends. The situation with George Floyd, back 30 years ago, Rodney King.”

Although Walker had a warrant out for his arrest, Cobb said his criminal status does not justify the actions of fellow officers.

“In this particular video, the officers were not absolutely 100 percent justified,” he said. “They could have used some other methods and one of those other tools, and from the citizen’s perspective, they should have to answer to what the video shows.. Warrant or no warrant, an officer has a wide range of discretion and there was a federal law passed after the George Floyd incident that if an officer sees another officer committing excessive force, they should intervene; somebody in that group should have intervened and said that’s enough.”

Cobb said the video vividly showed resistance from the suspect and said he’s not denying Walker pushed back to avoid arrest, but said officers have an obligation to the people.

“It’s clear that he resisted. It’s clear, I’m not excusing what the suspect did. As police officers and law enforcement in the public trust of the citizens, we have to do better.”