by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….
A Blue Paper report about the rough arrest of Kristopher Knight in front of Key West’s Publix grocery store last month created quite a stir among our readers. The initial bystander video showed Mr. Knight screaming in pain while Key West police officers were handling him. His hands were already cuffed and his legs had been tied with some sort of leash [a hobble strap]. It was not clear what kind of resistance the short 25-year-old would still have been able to show the officers. The level of pressure used on Knight was disturbing for some of our viewers; others found it perfectly justified.
In the course of three weeks, after all the available reports and body cam video was collected, the footage showed Mr. Knight dozing, while sitting down in front of Publix at Key Plaza. One officer, Officer Julio Gomez, wakes him up, and inquires about his condition. He is obtaining reasonable answers and compliance from Knight who he continues to address politely.
Another officer however, Officer Michael Chaustit immediately breaks into foul language and a confrontational attitude. Knight is ordered off the property. He complies, but as he is walking and once he gets about 30 feet away, he yells loudly “Fuck y’all Motherfuckers!” Officer Chaustic is heard saying, “Nope!” Gomez asks: “You want to take him?” Answer, “Yep”.
Chaustit follows behind Knight. He orders “Stop!” Knight raises his hands over his head but keeps walking “Man I didn’t do nothing.” Officer Chaustit, who is twice Knight’s size, throws him into what appears to be some plastic drums then grabs him again and throws him, flying across the walkway, where his head stops inches from a cement column. From that moment on and at all times thereafter Chaustit uses one form or another of “pain compliance.”
The whole thing is captured by KWPD’s new body worn cameras, to one exception: the really disturbing scene, where Knight is completely restrained and yet constantly subjected to pain, that part, is not recorded. The footage however resumes immediately after, as Knight is being put back inside the police cruiser.
After publishing the video documentary of the incident, we asked Key West Chief of Police, Donie Lee, if the arrest was consistent with KWPD policy.
The chief responded saying he had sent the incident for review by his Professional Standards Department.
This week we received this statement from the Chief:
“We have concluded our review of the arrest of Kristopher Knight by Ofc. Chaustit on Feb. 4, 2017. Although we believe there was probable cause for the arrest, we believe the arrest was based on an emotional reaction to provocation by Knight. My expectation is that our officers always strive to maintain their professionalism and avoid attitude arrest. Ofc. Chaustit also didn’t use his body cam according to policy. Ofc. Chaustit has been disciplined for his actions. He is a good officer and has accepted responsibility for his actions. We have determined that the use of force in this arrest was within policy.”
To our readers who believe we have an “anti-police agenda” we pledge to try to show you that we don’t. The reporting we did of Knight might have dispelled this “agenda” perception had we focused more on contrasting the opposing methods used by the officers on scene: Officer Gomez, who was recently awarded for the work he did to successfully deescalate a very tense situation at Depoo Hospital and Officer Chaustit, whose previous numerous encounters with Knight got the best of him that afternoon.
Our reporting on the police, contrary to many of our misled readers, has nothing to do with politics, we are neither conservatives or liberal. However, it is our job to investigate and report on serious matters such as how well local police officers are performing in different situations and whether the officers remain within the boundaries of the law, regardless of the color, or social status of the suspect.