FAIRVIEW, Tenn. (WKRN) — One Fairview Police officer has been fired and a second officer has resigned after a controversial DUI stop in which a veteran officer is accused of striking a handcuffed suspect who reportedly spits on or at that officer.
The video of the stop is from August 16, 2019. Fairview Police officers were in the process of arresting DUI suspect Aisha Whitaker, who multiple witnesses say was all over the road and driving dangerously. At one point, citizens had to take the keys out of the woman’s ignition.
According to Fairview Police Chief Zack Humphreys, the 36-year-old suspect was extremely intoxicated and was passively resisting officer attempts to handcuff her.
“The report states she is combative but after review of the video we could find no evidence that she was combative or fighting the officers,” said Chief Humphreys.
Once the woman was handcuffed, Officer Kodi Knight and Officer David Howell walked Whitaker to the squad car.
Dashcam footage showed Whitaker stumble. As she regained her balance, she turned toward Officer Knight and spit at him. The officer reacted swiftly and the video appears to show the officer slapping the handcuffed woman in the face with an open hand.
After the seven-year veteran reportedly struck the handcuffed woman in the face, he grabbed her by her throat and admonished her to never spit on him again.
Chief Humphreys reviewed every frame of video and tells News 2 that he sees no reason for the officer reaction.
“Not that I am aware of. It appears she turns to him. The claim is she spit. But she is cuffed and under control. And we have a policy about striking while handcuffed. That was clearly a violation of policy,” said Chief Humphreys.
Bodycam of the same incident showed the woman spitting toward the officer, then a thud believed to be Officer Knight’s hand hitting her face.
There are a few curse words and then Knight says, “Who do you think you are spitting on? Do not spit on me again, is that understood?”
Humphreys said this is not the behavior that Fairview, a city that has seen its share of controversies is going to tolerate.
“It does seem like that was retaliatory. We have set a standard here. That is not how we conduct business,” said Chief Humphreys.
When asked if it would ever be ok to punch a handcuffed suspect, Humphreys said yes, but only under very extreme conditions where an officer’s safety or a citizen’s safety was in question.
And this situation did not warrant the reaction, according to the chief.
“Clearly from the video, this is not one of those instances,” Humphreys said. “We want to set a standard, set it high, and this incident here does not align with those standards.”
Officer Kodi Knight was fired, and the TBI did refer the case for prosecution. Sources in the Williamson County DA’s office, which recused itself in the matter, confirm that a Rutherford County Grand Jury heard the presentment, but did not find enough evidence to convict Knight of any criminal wrongdoing.
In a statement Monday, Kodi Knight’s attorney Matthew Muenzen said,
Due to pending litigation, Mr. Knight is hesitant to speak about the details of his termination as a police officer by the City of Fairview, but he has initiated legal action in the Williamson County Chancery Court to have his termination overturned. He is hopeful that the court will agree that his termination was wrongful and is looking forward to returning to protecting and serving the Fairview Community.