FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A white Virginia police officer was charged with assault and battery in connection with the use of a stun gun on a black man, authorities announced.
Fairfax County police Officer Tyler Timberlake arrived on scene and fired his stun gun at the man after other officers had spent several minutes trying to persuade him to get into an ambulance to go to a detox center on Friday, according to body camera video shown at a news conference late Saturday.
Timberlake is seen striking the man with a stun gun and then getting on top of him, along with the officer wearing the body camera. Once Timberlake is on top of the man, he presses the stun gun into the back of his neck and fires again.
“Together as a community, through our transparency, we will heal as a community,” Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said. “This is behavior we shall not tolerate.”
Roessler said someone had called police about a man walking down a street shouting that he needed oxygen. On the video, the man shot with the stun gun repeatedly says “Your body needs oxygen” and talking in gibberish. The officer who responded before Timberlake had tried to deescalate the situation, the police chief said, adding that it’s unclear why Timberlake used his stun gun.
The man was treated at a hospital and subsequently released, Roessler said.
Fairfax County Police are in the midst of a program to outfit their officers with body-worn cameras to improve transparency and community relations.
Roessler said at the news conference late Saturday night that Timberlake deployed force in violation of the department’s use of force policies and ignored “the sanctity of human life.”
“Our nation is righteously angry at the law enforcement profession, as am I,” Roessler said, in a reference to protests against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, who was elected last year on a criminal justice reform agenda, also seemingly referenced the protests in a statement announcing the three counts of assault and battery, which could yield a 36-month sentence for Timberlake if convicted, news outlets reported. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had a lawyer to comment on his behalf.
“I can assure you that I am personally following this case closely to ensure a thorough prosecution and outcome, especially during these trying times,” Descano said.
Also Sunday, police in neighboring Falls Church said they are seeking information about a confrontation between two white officers and an African American man who was pepper sprayed after police say they received calls from two women who say they felt threatened by him.