Boston University Police Department officers apprehended a man outside of 595 Commonwealth Ave. Monday afternoon as a crowd of students watched the Black individual get wrestled to the ground. The incident was witnessed and recorded on video by multiple witnesses.
BUPD Chief Kelly Nee wrote in an email that officers use force to prevent harm to others or themselves, including when a person is resisting arrest.
“Officers do not CHOOSE to use force,” Nee wrote. “The goal of an officers use of force is to overcome resistance to lawful control, keep the subject from harming themselves, or others, and to have the subject STOP their violent activity, or imminent threat of violent activity.”
Nee noted the individual had not merely been trespassing but had allegedly physically accosted a student.
“This was not a trespassing incident,” she wrote. “This was an assault and battery on a female student, threatening and intimidating language used toward her, and an assault and battery on a police officer.”
Nee wrote the suspect potentially struggles with a mental health condition and is “well known” to BUPD for posing as a student.
The man was not arrested but will face “complaints in court for Assault & Battery, Assault and Battery on a Police Officer and Resisting Arrest,” Nee added.
The supposed suspect was contacted multiple times but could not be reached for a comment at the time of publication.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email that officers released the individual to de-escalate the situation even as the suspect remained antagonistic.
“The 26-year-old man was escorted from 595 Comm. Ave. and directed to leave toward Kenmore Square,” Riley wrote, “but instead followed the officer towards Silber Way and became combative and confrontational, including spitting on one officer and pulling his protective mask off.”
Video footage taken by a witness shows the suspect shouting, “Chill out! How am I under arrest?” as he pulled the mask off of the officer grappling with him.
Both Riley and Nee wrote an internal Use of Force investigation will take place, as is common practice within BUPD.
“The department will review it to ensure the incident comported with the training officers receive,” Riley wrote.
A student witness who recorded the event and prefers to remain anonymous called BUPD’s actions “ridiculous.”
“There was no heightened situation, really, as [the suspect and officers] were walking before, until a bunch of cops pulled up and tackled him,” said the student. “I hope that they are held accountable for what I view as unnecessary use of force.”
Elena Cameron, a junior in the Questrom School of Business, said she was walking out of the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering COVID-19 testing center when she saw what appeared to be “two guys fighting.”
“I kept walking towards it,” Cameron said, “and I noticed it was a Black guy being decked by cops. And I was like, I’m taking out my phone right now.”
Cameron said that as a well-dressed white woman, she has “an immense amount of privilege” to get as close as she could to film the scene.
“I think [the officer] was trying to duck [the suspect] away from the crowd, which I did not like,” Cameron said. “Something could go down right there. And we wouldn’t catch it on camera, they could deny it.”
Olivia Clyne, a freshman in the College of General Studies, said she found the incident particularly disheartening given it involved BUPD officials.
“It was horrifying, especially knowing that it was done by police officers affiliated with the college that I go to, and I’m honestly just thankful that so many people stopped and started recording, because I’m sure it made the officers more conscious of their actions.”
Clyne said the remarks made by the suspect did not warrant the use of force.
“Police officers are supposed to be held to a higher standard,” she said, “and when they put on their uniform they’re not supposed to, at least outwardly, be affected by those kinds of trivial comments and things.”
Clyne said she hopes an “impartial party” will conduct a report on the events that occurred Monday.
Alexandra Piranio, a freshman in CGS, was passing by at the time and stopped to watch the incident.
“We heard a lot of screaming,” she said. “And as we looked, we saw that there was a man being held down by the police, and he was in handcuffs. And we stopped to kind of watch for a minute because we wanted to make sure that everyone was safe.”
Cameron noted the impact such an incident may have on Black students at BU as well as its poor timing following a year of media focus on police brutality after the murder of George Floyd last May.
“Can you imagine a Black student at BU hearing this right before finals?” asked Cameron. “The fact that they had to do it now, right when they close up the Derek Chauvin trial. Are you kidding me?”
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of the story, it was misstated that the police accosted the supposed suspect. This article has been updated to better reflect the event that transpired.