APD officer charged with assault after video recorded incident

An Anchorage Police Department patrol car in a Mountain View park (Photo: Zachariah Hughes – Alaska Public Media, Anchorage)

An Anchorage police officer is charged with two counts of assault in connection with a Sept. 30 incident that led to an internal investigation.

The confrontation was uploaded to YouTube by the victim, an online activist with a record of strong anti-police sentiment.

According to charging documents, 32-year-old APD Officer Cornelius Pettus stopped a bicyclist to issue a citation over a lack of lights or reflectors. The cyclist, 49-year-old Samuel Allen, swore at the officer and biked away while filming the encounter on his smart-phone. Not long after, Pettus and another officer went to Allen’s house and dropped off a citation. Once again, Allen was filming the incident.

In the video, Allen can be heard leaving his house, and walking towards the officers as he yells swears and derogatory slurs at them.

Allen’s video is almost pitch black, but the audio is clear. The officer grabs his phone away from him, saying it’s now “evidence” in the bike citation incident. Allen demands he give it back. Then there’s a scuffle.

“What’s up? What’s up? You want more?” Pettus asks.

According to the charges against Officer Pettus, he punched the other man in the jaw, then kicked him in the groin. At some point, Allen is pepper-sprayed before the two officers subdue and handcuff him, then they arrest him for resisting arrest.

Initially the officer reported Allen had taken a confrontational stance and challenged him to fight as he balled his fists. But investigators found that those claims were contradicted by police dash-cam footage of the incident. According to the charging documents, when he was asked about the discrepancy Pettus said,”That’s how I remember it,” and did not recall kicking Allen in the groin.

The fact that Allen recorded the whole incident is not an accident. In a YouTube channel he runs called Northern Corruption Monitor 907, Allen identifies himself as a “first amendment auditor.” Those are individuals who film businesses, police and public officials, often in a confrontational style to demonstrate their belief in free speech rights. Allen’s channel has several videos with provocative anti-police messages, including a recent one involving an APD training dog being dragged to a bathroom break that generated a small amount of local controversy.

Allen could not be reached for comment.

Speaking to reporters at APD headquarters on Friday, Police Chief Justin Doll said that Pettus did not follow tactics like deescalation and conflict management taught to officers in training.

“The fact that the officers didn’t follow our normal training guidelines or policy guidelines is evident in the fact that ultimately the officer was charged with an assault,” Doll said.

As the assault case moves forward in state court, APD says it will conduct its own internal investigation to determine whether Pettus keeps his job. In the meantime, he’s on administrative leave with pay.

Doll said he hopes that by drawing attention to misconduct by members of the police force when such incidents occur, the department can further grow public trust.

“I think that we’ve proven to the community that we take those things very seriously, we take the appropriate action and then we’re very transparent with the community and tell everybody when it happens,” Doll said.

According to APD, there’s an internal investigation into a second officer who was present during the incident, but at this point no charges have been filed.