Local civil rights leaders Tuesday denounced the tasing arrest of Tario Anderson, an autistic black man who they said was brutalized and beaten while he lay on the street in handcuffs.
Anderson was arrested Christmas Eve after Greenville police said he acted suspiciously and ran from officers who were investigating gunshots fired near Sullivan and Burns streets.
The officers chased him on foot, telling him three times to stop, according to Chief Ken Miller. When Anderson didn't, they fired a Taser and a struggle ensued, Miller said.
There are conflicting accounts of what happened next.
At a press conference Tuesday, community advocate Paul Guy said he spoke on behalf of Anderson's mother, Carolyn, who stood at his side, when he alleged that police beat and tased her son repeatedly during the incident.
"He was laying on the ground, handcuffed ... calling for his mama," Guy said, describing the arrest as inhumane.
Authorities have said Anderson, who's 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, sustained minor scrapes during the altercation.
The Rev. Ennis Fant, who stood with Anderson and Guy, said officers continued to struggle with the 34-year-old after they were told of Anderson's condition. Family members said he has the mental capacity of a fifth-grader and only communicates with his mother and immediate family.
Since the arrest, Miller has said he's working to get the charges against Anderson dropped after learning that Anderson suffers from autism.
Miller said in an earlier press conference Monday that he's asked the State Law Enforcement Division to conduct an independent investigation into the allegation by Anderson's mother that the officers used excessive force.
Also at Monday's press conference, other black leaders, including state Sen. Karl Allen and the Rev. J.M. Flemming, president of Greenville branch of the NAACP, called for calm in the community as authorities investigate the incident.
Allen, an attorney, also said he planned to file a court motion to dismiss the charges against Anderson.
The officers involved remain on paid active duty, which Fant said he found troubling.
"How can that lead to a thorough and fair and just investigation?" he said Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, Miller told The Greenville News that the department would follow up on Fant's allegation that Anderson was tased multiple times after he was restrained.
He said the officers involved weren't placed on leave since lethal force wasn't used and Anderson didn't sustain major injuries.
"They are scrapes from falling and from wrestling on the ground," Miller said.
He said the officers at the time didn't know of Anderson's condition and that Anderson reacted the same way a guilty subject would have when police shined a spotlight at him that night.
Two officers in the area were responding to a report of gunshots fired at 11:51 p.m. Christmas Eve when they saw a man later identified as Anderson, according to Miller. When they directed spotlights on him, he ducked his head and walked in the opposite direction with his hands in his pockets, he said.
When he failed to stop, officers fired a Taser and began to restrain him, Miller said.
"You've got an encounter that is a struggle, and you secure. That's just what you do, and then you sort through it later," he said.