Officials: Police justified in tasing student

Officials: Police justified in tasing student

Tessa Duvall

Dennis Craig, a WKU student from Bee Spring, was tased in the Downing University Center Subway around 6 p.m. Saturday after campus police received a call about an agitated customer.

Capt. Lee McKinney, one of the officers on the scene, said the department responded to a possible fight in progress.

When a call like that goes out, all available officers respond, he said. Because it occurred around the end of the Homecoming football game, a lot of officers were nearby.

In a 19-second video of the incident, a total of eight officers were seen responding.

The officers shouted, “Get on the ground,” as they ran in and surrounded Craig before tasing him.

Craig said he has no hard feelings toward campus police.

“It was the best thing they could have done at the time,” Craig said. “I think they handled it appropriately.”

Craig declined to comment further on the situation at this time.

Craig was cited for alcohol intoxication in public and disorderly conduct, McKinney said.

According to the incident report, Craig was transported by EMS to the Medical Center for the minor injuries caused by the Taser probes.

Cpl. Johnny Vance, the senior tasing instructor and the officer who deployed the Taser on Saturday, said each officer goes through eight hours of training provided by Taser. Training includes how and when to use the products, and the medical and legal aspects of using them.

Officers have been equipped with Tasers for six to eight months, but this is the first time they’ve used one, Vance said.

Tasers are unlikely to be used more than one or two times per year, he said.

The WKU Police Department has a specific policy that categorizes the use of force, he said. Tasing, which is on the same force level as pepper spray, falls below anything that is likely to cause physical injury, such as striking someone.

Bob Skipper, director of media relations, said tasing was the safest way – for the officers and Craig – to bring the situation under control.

“All officers from the chief down have undergone Taser exposure, which means they know first-hand what it feels like to be tased,” he said. “They take deployment very seriously.”

Franklin freshman Ethan Mefford was at Subway when the incident occurred and posted a video to YouTube that was more than five minutes long. The video has more than 270,000 views.

Mefford said that when he walked into Subway, he saw Craig, who he doesn’t know, getting very angry on the phone.

Craig approached Mefford and told him that he was a sheriff, showed him a military ID and said he would need to question him, Mefford said. At this point, Mefford went along with it because he thought it was a joke.

Mefford said when Craig tried to make him sit down, he stopped going along with it and got back in line.

Craig followed Mefford. The Subway manager asked him to leave at that point, as did Craig’s friend, Mefford said.

Then, Craig followed a Subway worker behind the counter and yanked the phone out of the wall, Mefford said. Mefford had already called the police.

“My heart was beating,” he said. “I was ready to run away.”

He said Craig’s friend tried to get him to calm down, but Craig remained very worked up, emotional and ready to fight.

According to the incident report, Craig was heard saying there was a terrorist cell on campus that he needed to stop.

Mefford said he could smell alcohol on Craig. The incident report also confirms this and says multiple witnesses gave written statements about Craig’s combative behavior.

Mefford said he thought Craig had plenty of time to react to the police’s orders to get down.

“If it’d been me, I would have been on the ground,” he said.

There were about 20 to 25 people in Subway before the incident, but when Craig jumped over the counter, about half of them left, Mefford said. Several took pictures or video, but most people just watched.