Three Madison police officers are under investigation as home security video posted to Facebook Wednesday appears to show Madison Police Officers violently detaining a Black teen with a mental illness, putting a bag over his head and then punching his head at least three times.
A Madison Police Department incident report says a complaint of excessive force was made Monday and that “the incident was turned over to MPD’s Professional Standards and Internal Affairs Unit.”
One video clip was posted by the young man’s mother, while three clips were posted by community activist Brandi Grayson with the mother’s permission. Madison365 has chosen not to identify the mother or the teen to protect the teen’s privacy.
Some might find the video upsetting, but those who choose to can view it here.
In an interview Wednesday with Madison365, Grayson, a longtime friend of the family who has been designated as the family spokesperson, said the incident took place Monday. The teen, a student at West High School, had not taken his required medication for several days and was “extremely agitated and was using foul language, and verbally being disrespectful.” She said the teen left school and walked home.
Grayson said police then arrived at the teen’s home while he was in the shower, and that he was willing to be taken into custody and ultimately taken to Winnebago Mental Health Institute for treatment and stabilization.
A Madison Police Department incident report says the police had been collaborating with Journey Mental Health “in determining that a 17-yr-old young man was exhibiting threatening behavior, consistent with someone in a mental health crisis,” and made the determination to place him in “protective custody” and take him to a local hospital.
When the teen attempted to walk out of the room, video shows an officer violently slamming him into a wall and then two officers forcing him down onto a couch.
The police incident report says the teen “refused to comply with their requests and subsequently resisted handcuffing.” It’s not clear from the video what requests he refused to comply with as there is no audio.
While he was being held face down, a third officer put a bag — referred to as a “spit hood” — over his head and then punching the side or back of his head three times. The officers then brought him to the floor and took him into custody.
The police incident report says the teen was spitting at police, but it’s not clear when or how he would have done so in the video. “One officer delivered several strikes during the encounter in an attempt to gain control of the subject,” the incident report says. “The subject reported no injuries to medical personnel and had no visible injuries at the time of the encounter.”
The video does not seem to indicate that the teen was armed or aggressive toward police before police initiated the physical altercation. The incident report says one officer received injuries to a thumb and rotator cuff.
Grayson said the teen is still at Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh. There are no pending charges, but he needs to be stabilized before he can be released.
The police incident reports says “probable cause exists to charge the teen with multiple criminal charges” but that no determination has been made whether to charge him.
Police spokesman Joel Despain did not specify whether the officers involved are still on duty pending the investigation.
Reaction from the community condemning the conduct of the police has been swift.
“The police report lets us know that MPD doesn’t find anything wrong with punching a teenager in the head three times,” Progress Center for Black Women founder Sabrina Madison wrote on Facebook.
“We think it’s unacceptable,” Freedom, Inc founder and co-executive director M Adams said in an interview. “It’s what we’ve said all along. It shows the violence of police in general, and in particular the policing of Black people in Madison. There’s no justification. The person was restrained. Police should never be allowed to act out in retaliatory violence. There was no reason for it.”
Adams said police should not even have been involved in this case.
“Cops are not who you need, they do not solve mental health issues,” she said.
She also noted the nature of the video.
“One of the reasons I think this video is important is that it shows what people have been saying all along,” she said. “On these walk-alongs or ride-alongs, police are on their best behavior because they know they’re being watched. But here, they had no idea they were being watched or recorded, and this is what they did.”
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, Common Council President Shiva Bidar and Common Council Vice President Barbara McKinney released a joint statement late Wednesday.
“We expect a fair and thorough investigation of this very disturbing video,” the statement reads. “The key to public confidence in the integrity of the investigative process is full transparency after the fact. We are committed to a higher level of transparency and taking a proactive, problem-solving approach to the difficult issue of handling mental health crises.”
Grayson said the family will hold a press conference in the coming days.
This is a developing story. It has been updated with new information from Madison schools and Madison police. More updates will be made as we receive them.