TN deputy fired hours after photos show him choking compliant student during arrest

A veteran Tennessee sheriff’s deputy was fired Sunday, just hours after a series of photographs were published showing him choking a college student during an arrest.

Frank Phillips, a Knox County sheriff’s deputy since 1992, was photographed as he grabbed a University of Tennessee student by the neck and squeezed until the 21-year-old fell to his knees.

Deputies were called about 11:30 p.m. Saturday to a disturbance after a house party of about 800 people became unruly near the campus and spilled out into the street.

About 60 Knoxville police, university police, and sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene, where officers said some partygoers threw bottles at law enforcement officers.

Officers said student Jarod Dotson ignored repeated orders to go back inside, and Deputy Brandon Gilliam wrote in the police report that Dotson “began to physically resist officers’ instructions to place his hands behind his back, and at one point grabbed onto an officer’s leg.”

But freelance photographer John Messner said the student did not resist arrest.

He shot a series of photos showing two officers placing him in handcuffs when the 47-year-old Phillips walked over and choked Dotson until he fell to his knees.

The photographer said deputies smacked Dotson in the back of the head as they pulled him up, as if to wake him up.

Messner’s photos were published by the Daily Mail in Britain, and the deputy was fired later the same day.

“In my 34 years of law enforcement experience, excessive force has never been tolerated,” said Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones in a statement. “After an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, I believe excessive force was used in this incident. Therefore, Officer Phillips’ employment with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office is terminated immediately. The investigation will now be turned over to the Knox County Attorney General’s Office to determine any further action.”

The sheriff said the incident shows the need for officer-worn body cameras to record audio and video, which he said the department was in the process of purchasing.

Dotson was charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest. He was released from jail Sunday morning on $500 bond.

Watch this video report posted online by WATE-TV: