A few months ago, during a Durham City Council work session about body cameras, interim Durham police chief Larry Smith argued against the willy-nilly release of police footage to the public. His general point was that the situations that require use of force are inherently ugly ones, and tend to make officers look bad even when they’re simply following protocol.
“Now matter how justified the officer’s behavior may be, it just does not look good,” Smith said. “And I worry about that.”
A chaotic scene unfolded this past Friday evening inside a home at 3417 Misty Pine Avenue in Durham. It was caught on video, and it does not look good:
There is much screaming and yelling, both by the home’s inhabitants and the police officers. One young man walks by the camera limping, saying he’d been struck by an officer with a billy club. Another can be heard saying an officer struck him with a gun. Eventually, everyone in the house is pinned down and handcuffed, including Vera McGriff, who was filming the incident, and who owns the home, according to county records.
“We all sat in handcuffs for 4-5 hours while they waited for the search warrant …Everybody was tased, one officer hit my son in the face with his Glock 9, we were choked, kicked, thrown down on the floor,” McGriff wrote in a Facebook note accompanying the video. She said officers turned up at her door alleging they smelled marijuana and demanded to check out the house. After she refused on the grounds that they had no search warrant, eight officers “bum-rushed” the house, McGriff said.
DPD public affairs manager Wil Glenn tells the INDY that the officers—part of the DPD’s High Enforcement Abatement Team (HEAT) unit—were following up on a previous drug arrest at the home. When they smelled marijuana, they “secured the residence,” Glenn says.
The DPD’s version of events includes details not captured by the video—specifically, two officers being assaulted during the incident.
One of the people in the house, Khadir Cherry, tried to grab an officer’s weapon and refused to obey lawful orders, Glenn says. Another, Raynell Hall, struck an officer in the shoulder, according to Glenn.
“In order to execute the arrests during this volatile scene, officers’ deployed a Taser on Mr. Hall and an officer struck Mr. Cherry with a baton in the area between the hip and knee,” Glenn says.
Cherry was arrested and charged with two counts of possession with intent to manufacture, sell and/or distribute; maintaining a dwelling; two counts of assault on a government official; resisting a public officer; and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
Hall was charged with assault on a government official and resisting a public officer. Another person in the home, Jahmon Cedeno was also arrested and charged with assault on a government official. McGriff, the homeowner, was charged with maintaining a dwelling and resisting a public officer.
Per standard protocol, the DPD is “investigating all matters concerning this incident including the use of force,” Glenn says.
A recent report found patterns of racial profiling in the HEAT unit.
Correction: An earlier version of this story identified the home as being in the Northgate Park neighborhood. In fact, it is north of Northgate Park, in the Bragtown neighborhood.