Three former officers take plea deals in excessive force case

3 former officers take plea deals; dashcam video released in excessive force case

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Michael Mallicoat (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Michael Mallicoat (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
Newly-released dashcam video shows Mallicoat's head slammed against the hood, splattering blood on the car. (Source: KPD) Newly-released dashcam video shows Mallicoat's head slammed against the hood, splattering blood on the car. (Source: KPD)
Mayor Rogero described the actions as inexcusable. Mayor Rogero described the actions as inexcusable.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Three former Knoxville Police Department officers who were accused of using excessive force in the arrest of a Knoxville man took plea deals in court Monday.

Jeremy Jinnett, Ty Compton, and Chris Whitfield came under fire for their handling of the arrest of homeless man Michael Mallicoat on Feb. 9.

In that incident, two female officers arrested Mallicoat after he was reported to be disoriented and yelling while taking his clothes off in the middle of the street.

After handcuffing him, the officers said Mallicoat continued to fight back and they called for back-up.

Several neighbors told 6 News that once Mallicoat was on the ground and handcuffed, the male officers kicked him multiple times and threw him against the hood of a police cruiser.

KPD suspended the officers. All three later resigned.

In criminal court on Monday, Jinnett, Compton and Whitfield all took one-year sentences in exchange for each pleading guilty to one misdemeanor assault charge and one felony charge of official oppression.

As part of the deal, the officers will not face federal prosecution.

State prosecutors read the facts from the investigation about what happened to Mallicoat.

The state said Officer Jinnett punched Mallicoat several times and stood on him. Officer Whitfield kicked Mallicoat. Officer Compton slammed him onto the hood three times.

"Punching, kicking and slamming a person's head onto the hood of a cruiser while that person is handcuffed is mistreatment against KPD policy," said Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Irvine.

Mallicoat's attorney said his client was pleased with the deal. Mallicoat plans to wait to hear from city officials about a settlement before deciding whether to file a lawsuit.

He is also considering filing suit against the officers themselves and others with KPD.

Whitfield's attorney, Tommy Hindman, said, "This is a sad day for my client to give up his career as a law enforcement officer. It's something he's always wanted to do."

The officers will in court again Aug. 8 for a sentencing hearing.

All three officers plan to apply for probation.

Mayor Rogero, Knoxville Police Department chief condemn abuse

Dashcam video shows the arrest of Mallicoat on Grainger Avenue in North Knoxville in February.

At the time, police said Mallicoat had been taking off his clothes in the street and struggled with officers even after being restrained.

But then a witness filed a complaint and an investigation was launched.

On Monday, Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said the actions of those three officers, as well seven others, were inexcusable and inappropriate.

The dashcam video from officers on the scene shows the excessive force used on Mallicoat.

You can't see, but you can hear the two female responding officers struggle to handcuff Mallicoat.

But when Officer Compton arrived, that is when KPD said the force becomes excessive.

Barely in frame, you see Mallicoat slammed on the patrol car.

"All of that would have been fine until the head was slammed on the hood of the car, being slammed two more times, inappropriate," said Chief Rausch.

From there, the officers throw the handcuffed and hogtied Mallicoat to the ground.

"He's punched going to the ground - inappropriate. He's stomped while on the ground, handcuffed - inappropriate. The officers standing on his back is not anything we train," said the chief.

Mayor Rogero described the actions as inexcusable.

"If officers abandon their training like in this instance, bad things happen to both the officers and the people they serve," the mayor said.

Chief Rausch offered an apology for the officers' actions.

"I feel sorry that it happened," he said. "I'm sorry to Mr. Mallicoat that it happened and it's unfortunate."

But Chief Rausch said there is no need to alter protocol or procedure, but he plans to instead use the incident to reinforce those in place.

"We are responsible to each other. We are responsible to our partners and that means when you see one acting inappropriately, that means stepping in and stopping it," he said.

"Unfortunately it didn't happen on this scene."

Neighborhood witnesses key to investigation

In addition to the dash cam video, KPD interview more than half a dozen witneses of the incident.

The witnesses were at various locations on Grainger Avenue but all seven saw different parts of the arrest of Mallicoat, from the punching to the kicking to the slamming of his head on the patrol car.

In the summary provided by KPD, witness Elliot Granju said "they dropped him on the concrete and then they just started beating him and hitting him and kicking him and they were stomping on him."

While other neighbors saw the aftermath of the incident.

"The pool of blood was there and the blood staining on the concrete was there for about a week," said Lynda Evans, a resident of the neighborhood.

In the summary it says because the witnesses were able to observe force from a distance, it had to have been obvious to the officers standing right there.

But Evans says she understands the tough job of KPD officers.

"This is not an easy black and white situation, our police are essential to us. On the other hand we don't need police brutality so I know there is a fine, fine line that police walk and it's very difficult when someone is very out of control," Evans said.

Four of the officers were reprimanded for failing to stop the actions of the others, actions that have some in the neighborhood wary of police.

"I want people to understand in our community a lot of people don't trust the police and I think it's time to fix that," said Ricky Stallings, a resident of the neighborhood as well as the director of the Neighborhood Watch.

Stallings emphasized he is sad they have lost officers in the area when they are so desperately needed but says more should be done to help the community.

"If anything we need a stronger support in this community," Stallings said. "We need more officers that show they care."

6 News Reporters STEPHANIE BEECKEN and ALEXIS ZOTOS contributed to this report.

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