WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — An angry white police officer repeatedly yanked on the dreadlocks of a handcuffed black man who was arrested after a dangerous high-speed chase in Iowa, then hit him twice on the back of the head, as seen in video obtained this week by The Associated Press.
Officer Adam Wittmayer was disciplined after an internal investigation into the April 19 incident in Waterloo, a city with a nearly all-white police force that has suffered a string of costly missteps involving the use of force and a lack of professionalism.
A state prosecutor declined to seek criminal charges against the officer, concluding that jurors would understand why he was mad at 24-year-old Montavis Keller, whose car nearly hit Wittmayer near the end of the chase.
Waterloo Police Chief Daniel Trelka said details of the discipline are confidential under Iowa law, but he described the punishment as “significant.”
“I don’t condone Officer Wittmayer’s conduct whatsoever,” the police chief said.
Keller’s attorney, Tom Frerichs, referred the video to the FBI this week and asked for an inquiry. He said the officer crossed the line by trying to punish Keller himself and criticized the department’s decision not to fire Wittmayer.
“I can’t think of any other job in which an employee is allowed to repeatedly hit another person, pull out some of their hair and still keep their job,” Frerichs said.
The FBI is aware of the video and is considering whether to open a case, spokeswoman Sandy Breault said Thursday.
A phone listing for Wittmayer rang busy. The Waterloo police union did not return a message seeking comment.
Waterloo, which has the highest percentage of black residents of any city in Iowa, has approved settlements with black residents worth at least $2.7 million this year.
Racist remarks by officers have also come to light, including comments that may have contributed to an acquittal in a murder case last month. The police chief confirmed Thursday that another officer was recently disciplined for using a racial slur during a June 10 interaction with a black male.