Review clears officers of using excessive force

Apr. 29—HIGH POINT — A High Point Police Department review of an arrest that became controversial because of a bystanders' video has found the officers involved used an appropriate level of force after the man resisted being placed in handcuffs, Interim Chief Curtis Cheeks III said Monday.

"Any time a wanted suspect who is legally being placed under arrest decides to fight and resist attempts to secure his hands, police officers face the risk of physical injury and the threat that the person may be reaching for a weapon," Cheeks said in an extensive written statement.

After the review, "it was clear that the force used by all involved officers in this incident was reasonable and compliant with the U.S. Constitution, North Carolina law, and department policy," he said.

Keith McClain, 33, of High Point, was arrested about 11:30 p.m. April 8 in connection with a shoplifting from the N. Main Street Walmart. A bystander's video of the arrest showed several officers struggling to subdue McClain.

In his statement, Cheeks explained the sequence that led to McClain's arrest and how it escalated to the moment captured in the video that prompted allegations of excessive force.

Police had previously said that officers found McClain at the nearby InTown Suites hotel. Cheeks said that McClain matched the description, down to the specific Mickey Mouse shirt he was wearing, of a man who had just stolen merchandise from Walmart, which provided probable cause to arrest him.

The officers approached McClain, told him he was under arrest and provided clear instructions to put his hands behind his back, Cheeks said.

"For approximately 20 seconds, McClain was cooperative and then began resisting by tensing up and pulling away," Cheeks said.

Officers repeatedly instructed McClain to put his hands behind his back, and at the same time another man, Emmanuel Randolph, 32, of Greensboro, kept trying to step in between the officers and McClain, Cheeks said.

"Approximately one minute into the contact, Mr. McClain began to aggressively pull away (after only one handcuff was applied) and swing at officers, indicating his intent to fight rather than submit to the lawful arrest," Cheeks said. "Once taken to the ground, Mr. McClain continued to resist officers and did not follow their lawful commands. He attempted to get back to his feet, despite an officer's efforts to keep him on the ground in order to safely handcuff him. For approximately four minutes, Mr. McClain continued to resist various methods of physical force (empty hand tactics, fist strikes and baton strikes) which were used by officers in an effort to gain control of his other hand for their safety and to complete the lawful arrest."

Meanwhile, Randolph and several onlookers ignored commands to stay back and away from the officers, he said. The officers used pepper spray to keep them away.

Officers later arrested Randolph, who did not resist, and charged him with resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer.

"Ultimately, the officers were able to complete their handcuffing of Mr. McClain once he stated, 'I'm good' and stopped resisting officers' efforts to arrest him," Cheeks said.

Officers immediately notified a supervisor about the use of force, as required by policy, he said.