KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Video showing Kingsport police officers pinning a suspect on the ground before another officer punches him is making rounds on social media. The police department says the officer’s use of force was justified.
The suspect, Dustin Rice, was arrested at Chantz Scott Kia on Monday on a warrant for violation of probation for felony aggravated burglary.
Before the arrest, the video shows that officers had their lights on and guns drawn while performing a traffic stop on a red SUV on Stone Drive. Using a PA system, officers ordered the passenger, Rice, to get out of the vehicle, but he did not initially comply. Eventually, he did get out but proceeded to run through the parking lot of the dealership before police caught up and took him into custody.
“The guns were drawn on my son for no reason,” said Rice’s mother, Angie Sears. “And they got the K-9 and he got out of the car. The dog started towards him, he ran, I’m not sure why he ran. I don’t know.”
Sears said the stopped vehicle in the video belongs to Rice’s father, who was driving. She claims the two were pulled over for a “tinted tag.”
“Why would they attack him like that with guns and a police dog not knowing who he was? His name was not on that vehicle. He gets out of the car, they have their guns drawn and a K-9 dog after him,” she said.
Guns being drawn and a K-9 unit are protocol for a felony stop, especially with Rice’s history according to Kingsport Police Department spokesperson Tom Patton.
“Multiple officers are present before the stop is initiated. They pull him over in as safe a place as they can possibly do under the circumstances. They’ll stack up several cars, at least two, maybe three, behind the suspect, and they will give that suspect commands from cover and order him step by step what to do so that they can affect that arrest as safely as possible,” Patton said. “He has resisted arrest and we’ve had to use force on him to overcome the resistance in the past. It’s become the typical pattern of behavior for him.”
Patton said the force was warranted because Rice wasn’t listening to officers.
“They started with probably the most minimal level of force they can do which is them being present in marked vehicles, in uniforms, and giving this suspect very clear, verbal commands,” Patton said. “They’re trying to get his hands behind him, were unable to do so. An officer delivered what I can see in the video about two or three punches to the suspect. He immediately stopped resisting. They immediately were able to get his hands behind him in handcuffs so the minimal level of force that they used was highly effective and it worked and they didn’t have to use anything else.”
Sears said her son was taken to a hospital where “they had to bandage him up and place ice on his head where he had been punched in the head.”
Rice was taken to the hospital, but according to police, not for injuries sustained during the arrest.
“He sustained no injuries due to the police use of force,” Patton said. “He did however ingest heroin by his own choosing in an attempt to destroy evidence so he risked what could’ve been a serious overdose and as such Sullivan County EMS did respond, checked him out on the scene and transported him to the hospital for precautionary measures.”
An employee at the Chantz Scott Kia dealership who took the video and shared it with News Channel 11 says the arrest looks more intense than it was.
“The officer who came in at the end of the arrest was not throwing super hard punches as most people would believe. Just enough to get him to comply. I believe the officer was reacting to the situation,” Christopher Cash said via email. “After the arrest and the video ends, the officers on the scene began searching to see if he had tossed anything out on the short-lived foot chase. One of the officers brought him over to his KPD vehicle and sat him down then, he screamed out, ‘He swallowed it!’ I looked over and the suspect was very pale and very sick looking. The officers on the scene called in the paramedics. And then the paramedics, I believe hit him with Narcan to prevent the suspect from overdosing.”
KPD says the situation could have been much worse.
“They didn’t have to use pepper spray, they didn’t have to use tasers. They didn’t have to use a baton, they didn’t have to use their gun, they didn’t have to use all of the many many different tools that we have in our toolbox to use,” Patton said. “They used probably just the minimal level further than verbal commands which was open hand strikes or closed hand strikes. And that’s what they did in this case and it was effective and it worked.”
Rice, 32, has an extensive criminal history dating as far back as 2009, according to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation records. The TBI reports Rice has previously faced charges from authorities in Sullivan and Hawkins counties as well as the Kingsport Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Prior to Monday’s arrest, Rice’s most recent charges stemmed from an incident on July 18, 2020 with the KPD operating as the arresting agency. Rice was charged with aggravated burglary and theft under $1,000 on that date.
The TBI reports Rice has previously been charged with a variety of offenses, including evading arrest, aggravated assault, theft of property, simple possession, aggravated burglary, fugitive from justice and driving on a suspended license.
Sears is aware of her son’s history but says what happened Monday crossed the line.
“I want to see that officer be suspended from his job or released from his job,” she said. “There did not have to be guns drawn there did not have to be a K-9 involved in a regular routine stop on a highway. I want the Kingsport Police Department to be responsible for their actions.”
According to Patton, the KPD investigates any incident involving the use of force.
“It’s reviewed at every level all the way up to including the chief of police and that’s in the progress right now. Based on what I see in this video and based on what I see in the reports, it’s textbook by the book,” Patton said. “No police use of force is going to be pretty and the level of force that we use is dictated by the suspect.”
Rice was charged with resisting arrest, tampering with evidence, evading arrest and drug paraphernalia. The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office says he is being held in jail there without bond on the probation violation charge.