Local attorneys respond to controversial East Ridge student video
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office thoroughly reviewing all video of incident, including body cam footage
EAST RIDGE, Tenn. (WDEF) — The arrest of a student at East Ridge High School yesterday has gone viral on social media, and sparked its share of outrage.
Both the officer and student in the video now have attorneys representing them moving forward.
According to an affidavit, School Resource Deputy Tyler McRae was called to the school gym when 18-year-old student Tarius Sledge was acting aggressively and refused to participate in a class activity.
Officials say McRae and other school staff were trying to calm Sledge down, but the situation soon escalated into controversy.
The affidavit alleges that Sledge began playing basketball during the class’ free time after claiming to be sick during class, causing a heated confrontation between student and coach.
McRae then intervened in an attempt to calm Sledge, but soon felt he was going to be assaulted, leading to the confrontation on the bleachers where he decided to arrest him.
“You’re on a bleacher, you may as well have been on a catwalk somewhere, you know, 50 feet up,” said Robin Flores, Sledge’s attorney. “And at the end of the video, it shows them going up.”
The affidavit states McRae then pepper sprayed Sledge on the gym floor after multiple warnings to quit resisting arrest, to which Sledge allegedly said, “I can’t breathe, the pepper spray is hurting me.”
Sledge was eventually arrested without incident and taken to Hamilton County Jail where he is being charged with assault, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
With a video clip of the arrest now public, McRae’s attorney says posts have since emerged online threatening McRae with his life.
“Some were threatening — threats such as he deserves to have deadly force used on him, we need to find out where this guy lives … that kind of stuff,” said Jerry Tidwell, McRae’s attorney.
Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett says the video presents “only a short portion of the incident without any of the context” leading to what followed.
Flores and Tidwell both agree that all facts need to be further established to add to the controversial footage.
“Just that particular video, it appears the amount of force was excessive and unnecessary under the circumstances and had a high likelihood of causing death or serious bodily injury,” Flores said.
“I think you have to at least do more than watch a few seconds of video to conclude that something has occurred,” Tidwell said. “It’s unfair to everyone, including Mr. Sledge. It’d be unfair to treat him that way.”
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is currently conducting a thorough review of more than an hour’s worth of documentation, which includes reviewing all cell phone video, school surveillance video, and the SRD’s body camera footage.
Sheriff Garrett said earlier today he understands that, quote, “this is a sensitive issue to many in our community.”