A Jacksonville Police officer was recently captured on a cellphone video of drawing his taser on an individual in an arrest. Jacksonville Police arrested 31 year old Luke T. Ater of the 700 block of East Chambers near the corner of Chambers and Hardin at 8:23PM Saturday after responding to a disturbance reported by MacMurray College security. The cellphone video originates from a female voice off camera. Several children can also be seen on camera during the incident. The video was originally shared on Ater’s Facebook Page and has been viewed over 18,000 times since it was posted on Saturday night. You can view the video here. CAUTION: Strong language not suitable for young people.
Police Chief Adam Mefford says it’s not the first time that the Jacksonville Police, MacMurray College security, and Ater have had a confrontation. “This isn’t the first incident between this individual and MacMurray College Security. As a matter of fact, on May 26th the individual was served with a letter of no trespass for the college campus for previous incidents. On June 11th, we responded to the area for a similar incident in which the individual was allegedly on campus. The same situation happened when the officer arrived. The individual became verbally non-compliant but without further evidence of anything illegal, he was allowed to leave at that time. At the time, despite being verbally non-compliant, he answered the officer’s questions and the officer allowed him to leave. In this incident on Saturday, he refused to cooperate with the law enforcement officer.”
Mefford says that the officer in the video was legally allowed to detain Ater pending an active investigation into illegal activity despite not being placed under arrest when they arrived to the disturbance. “By law, under Terry v. Ohio, the police absolutely have the right to detain someone temporarily to investigate potential criminal activity. The individual chose not to cooperate with the officer who gave him several warnings that he was not free to leave, pending an investigation which led to the individual not cooperating with law enforcement, who then tried to place the individual under arrest for obstructing the investigation. At which point, the video shows a brief struggle between the officer and the individual, to where the officer realized he did not have physical control of the individual.”
Mefford said that the officer then created distance from Ater who had become physically and verbally aggressive. “The officer used what we call a de-escalation technique by creating distance between himself and the individual by going to his taser and giving loud verbal commands to obey the officer’s orders. At which time, the individual in the video obeyed the order and laid down on the ground. The officer maintained control until other officers arrived and the suspect was eventually taken into custody without further incident.”
Mefford says that the video only depicts half the story and that the police department stands behind the officer’s response to the scene. Mefford says he stands behind the officer’s decorum and demeanor in handling the incident. He says that the police department rarely encounters such issues when responding to disturbance calls around the city. “Through verbal commands and communication we are usually able to diffuse situations. Obviously in this situation, it was apparent this individual did not want to cooperate with verbal commands so the officer used what we call ‘Use of Force Continuum.’ He tried to use hand-to-hand, realized that was not working, de-escalated from the physical contact, went to the next level which was the taser. He did not have to use the taser, and through his commands, he was able to get the individual under control at that point. As far as the standpoint of use of force goes, I don’t see where the officer did anything wrong.”
Ater has since posted bond and been released from the Morgan County Jail with a notice to appear in Morgan County Court on July 14th.