Videos have quickly circulated on Facebook in Iowa over the past day that show an incident from a Sioux City Perkins restaurant early Thursday morning where a police officer instructs a Black man to leave the premises, grabs ahold of his arm, pushes the man on a table and then points a taser at his face then body after pushing him into a booth.
The Sioux City Police Department released body camera footage on Saturday afternoon from three officers involved.
“I’m leaving,” John Wright, who was a customer at the restaurant with friends, says as officer Thad Boyer grabs his arm and tosses him onto a table. “Hey! Hey! I’m leaving! I’m leaving! This is dangerous! This is dangerous!”
More videos and link to the full accounting from an eyewitness in the second tweet pic.twitter.com/N0Q6IE81Nl
— Ty Rushing (@Rushthewriter) May 1, 2021
Wright is then pushed into a booth, knocking over several chairs in the process, and Boyer backs up and draws his taser.
“Yeah, shoot me in the face,” Wright says as he’s sprawled out in the booth with his hands in the air as the officer aims his taser at Wright. Other customers shout at the officer to put the taser down.
Prior to the confrontation, police had been called to the Perkins at 2:13 a.m. over a drunken woman that management wanted to leave. After she left, Boyer returned to the restaurant, sees Wright at the front counter asking for water and then walks closely behind him and chides Wright and tells him he needs to “be nice” to the staff. Boyer argues with Wright briefly, then goes to the manager after Wright curses out loud in the restaurant several times and asks if he should leave.
“You’re going to go to jail if you don’t stand up and leave,” Boyer tells Wright after some back and forth.
Wright then stands up and puts his jacket in his hand while asking which person the manager is.
“If you don’t leave right now, you’re going to jail,” Boyer repeats and immediately grabs Wright as soon as he finishes the sentence. He then pushes him onto a table.
That part of the interaction occurs a little after 8:00 in Boyer’s body camera footage:
Subsequent videos shared online by onlookers show Wright being handcuffed and led out of the building into a police car, with many police officers arriving on the scene outside. Customers from the restaurant shout at the officers for how Wright was treated.
“The officer’s actions are still under review by the department,” Sgt. Jeremy McClure, the department’s Community Policing Sergeant, told Starting Line earlier Saturday.
“The display of force [with the taser] used by the officer is an appropriate de-escalation technique,” McClure added. “Once the subject was in custody, there was no further force used to get him into custody, and once he was in custody the officers deescalated further. Their actions go under review.”
Messages from Starting Line to Wright and the woman who recorded and posted the bystander videos weren’t immediately returned, but Jasmine Preston, a community leader that has worked on racial justice and policing issues, explained that the incident was a setback to local trust issues with the police department.
“Seeing the [initial] videos, it felt definitely like a setback in regards to trusting the police here,” she said. “As a community, we need to push for accountability and transparency so we can work with the police to be able to rebuild those bridges.”
Local residents have had a particular problem with Boyer over a past use of force issue in 2004 that badly scarred a man. A Change.org petition was already created calling on the department to remove Boyer, who was rehired by the department in 2019. Around that same time, local activists like Preston successfully pushed to get the Sioux City Police Department to finally adopt body cameras.
“The community has had nothing but problems with him since,” Preston said of Boyer’s return to the police force.
Preston did note that local residents have had some progress in police relations recently, like more police using bicycles during their patrols in town, which she said made them more approachable. She also said there’s been local efforts to put up signs on houses where people with autism live so police can better understand a situation they approach.
Wright was charged with trespass, failure to comply with a peace officer and interference with official acts.
The Sioux City Police Department’s press release characterized the confrontation that led to the arrest as, “At the request of the manager, Wright was ordered to leave or face arrest. Wright refused those commands and when officers went to place into custody, he resisted arrest.”
It’s not clear where in the video, as Wright’s arm is grabbed by Boyer and then pushed into a table, the resistance occurs as Wright repeats, “I’m leaving.”
Right before the arrest, another customer observes, “Everybody in here cursing, he just say ‘fuck,’ but he [Wright] gotta go.”
The police statement also noted that Wright “interjected himself into the situation and disrupts the conversation officers were having with the complainant and staff” as they originally entered the Perkins for the woman. The body camera video seems to show Wright asking if the police were at the restaurant for him, the staff reassures him they are not, and the officers go on their way to talk with the woman.
Below is the body camera footage from two other officers, and the entire police statement can be viewed here.
by Pat Rynard