APD investigates allegations of excessive force in local musician’s arrest

APD investigates allegations of excessive force in local musician’s arrest-attachment0

Late on June 3, musician Juan Holladay walked away from the Pritchard Park drum circle, handing out fliers for his show later that night at MoDaddy’s. As he walked past the Elizabeth Blackwell memorial marker on Patton Avenue, he saw several Asheville Police Department officers talking to a man. He had no idea that what happened next would get him arrested and start an APD internal investigation into the officers’ conduct.

“It didn’t seem that serious; they didn’t have the sidewalk blocked off,” Holladay says. “I handed a flier to a young man that looked like he was a friend to the guy [who] was being talked to. The officers seemed relaxed. I handed him a flier and walked away. An officer blocked my way and asked if I saw what was going on. He asked if I knew them, pointing back to three young men.”

Holladay replied that he didn’t know the others. Then, he says, the officer grabbed his wrist “and held it in a way that communicated to me that I was in big trouble.

“I felt this had already escalated way beyond what was necessary,” Holliday recalls. “I thought I should let him know. I said ‘Sir, you don’t need to be so agro.’ I meant to say ‘aggressive,’ but I was nervous. I hoped [the officer] would see me being calm and the situation would de-escalate. He then said ‘OK’ and twisted my arm around behind my back, with enough force to shock me.”

The officer started yelling for Holladay to get on the ground, something he claims was difficult, given his position.

“It should have been an easy process: I was cooperating as well as I could, but I was in shock and afraid,” Holladay says. At that point, he felt multiple officers restrain him.

“They kept yelling at me to get on the ground — it felt like there was one on each limb — but I kept telling them I didn’t have any control over my person at that point,” he says. “I think they were panicked. People had gathered around and were shouting ‘police brutality’ and ‘excessive force.’ The situation got out of control really fast.”

Other officers moved to get the crowd back, as another “started choking me from behind” using his bicep, Holladay claims. “It got tighter and tighter. I thought he was trying to choke me unconscious. He was pumped up on adrenaline. I worried he would snap my neck. I called out to him, told him. He stopped trying; I have a skinny neck.”

At that point, Officer Leslie Torgow put a can of pepper spray to his face and asked him to comply. Then, Holladay says, the other officers relaxed enough that he could get on the ground. “I was grateful for [Torgow’s] presence. She took charge of the situation, made a plan [that] gave me a chance to comply without other officers interfering. Except for her, the other officers never gave me a chance to cooperate.”

Among the passersby that night was Rick Fornoff, who describes what he saw. “I assumed the APD had captured some armed and dangerous drug dealer, just by the way they were acting. There was a lot of physical activity going on. There were a lot of police cars there. The crowd was upset with what was going on.

“Somebody was being tackled,” Fornoff tells Xpress. He’s worked with Holladay as a volunteer with the TEDxAsheville conference, and says he was surprised when he found out who the officers were restraining. “Really? He can’t weigh more than 130 pounds, and he’s a gentle soul.”

Holladay, a part-time pre-school teacher, was charged with resisting public officers and creating a public disturbance. He was released from the Buncombe County jail later that night on a promise to appear. He says he had a bloodied chin, some bruises, and soreness for about a week, but he met his band in the jail waiting room and still played his show afterwards. He did not seek medical treatment.

There is no incident report for his arrest, but the APD, through spokesperson Lt. Wally Welch, after requests from media, released an account asserting Holladay belligerently interfered while officers were in the process of arresting three people for putting stickers on city power poles.

“Mr. Holladay stepped into the middle of my investigation and interfered,” Officer Daniel Britt says in the APD’s account. “[Officer Willie] Carswell told him to leave and Holladay said. ‘Fuck you, I don’t have to.’ Carswell told him he was under arrest and then Holladay resisted.

“A large crowd gathered and [Holliday] was taken into custody and transported by Britt and Carswell. From my perspective, the officers did their duty in a reasonable manner,” Welch writes. “It should also be noted that Mr. Holladay has never been to the department to file a complaint about his treatment.”

Holladay denies he cursed the officers when they approached him, or that they asked him to leave before restraining him. He says he cursed while being choked, saying, “You’re going to breaking my f’ing neck,” and when he was lifted off the ground, he said, “‘You’re playing tug of war with me like an f’ing rag doll.’ I didn’t directly curse at any officers.”

According to the APD’s guidelines on using force, “officers may only use the force necessary to carry out a legal purpose.”

When asked what actions did Holladay take that interfered with Britt and Carswell’s investigation, which officer restrained him first, how did they do it, how did he resist, Welch replied, “I would love to provide some clarity for you on this, but I’ve since been advised that this has turned into an internal investigation and am not allowed further comment.”

Holladay admits he hasn’t filed a formal complaint. Instead, he approached City Council member Cecil Bothwell via Facebook and made a public call on his Facebook page for witnesses from the crowd to come forward. Bothwell confirms he asked City Manager Gary Jackson to look into the matter. Holladay later received a call from Jackson’s office about meeting with an internal affairs officer. As Welch confirms, the department began an investigation.

Holladay’s court date is Sept. 13.

— David Forbes, senior news reporter

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42 thoughts on “APD investigates allegations of excessive force in local musician’s arrest

  1. dpewen

    I do not have a good feeling about the Asheville police officers … they are arogant and power hungry. I guess the pay is so low they have to take these type of people … very sad. I have and will report police who are mean and angry and aggressive!

  2. dave

    This is distressing and most unfortunate. I know Juan and he is a kind and gentle soul, and not a criminal. Arresting folks for putting stickers on poles, and then the situation with Juan seems ridiculous. There are real criminals out there, i.e., the fellows who broke into the Riverview Drive home and assualted the tenants (of which there has been no media coverage of), go after them. Canvas a neighborhood and ask questions, solve the real problems.

    In terms of the APD, I know a few officers through community, friends and family. They are cool and we are safer for it. I can say that those officers get “it.” Not all APD would have reacted in this way. This should not turn into a bashing of the APD in general, this was some bad decision making on behalf of a few officers and should be dealt with accordingly. I’m, sure we’ll here more about what they were, or were not thinking.

    Again, a bad situation perpetuated by a few, not all. So sorry that Juan got caught up in it. I hope that this works out in a fair and appropriate manner. Sounds like some of the APD could benefit from some sensitivity training, but please, let’s not turn this into some “hate the police” situation, either. That won’t help Juan, the community, or the police.

    PS- MNTNX can we get some news on the West Asheville Burglaries/Assaults whatever they were (I don’t know because I can’t find any media on them), Riverview, Logan (which was apparently connected to Riverview), Jarrett. From what I gather the Riverview crime was extremely violent.

    Best of luck Juan, I sense this will work out for you. I, and likely the majority of the community, will keep tabs on this.

  3. Theresa Mk-Ultraviolent

    This is disgusting and fits the definition of “terrorism” according to the dictionary. What buncombe county needs is the GAO and FBI to audit everyone into Leavenworth.

  4. Dionysis

    “There is no incident report for his arrest, but the APD, through spokesperson Lt. Wally Welch, asserts Holladay belligerently interfered while officers were in the process of arresting three people for putting stickers on city power poles…

    From my perspective, the officers did their duty in a reasonable manner,” Welch”

    Your “perspective?” What perspective can be gleaned from sitting behind a desk nowhere near the incident?

  5. boatrocker

    Yeah, the APD has had some credibility problems as of late. Even so, the events described by the two parties remind me of “Raoshmon” or something.

  6. Asheville Dweller

    Oh boy here we go with “Police State” Nonsense . . .

    Where is the video proof? Its 2011 just about everyone has a cell phone and even most low end cell phones have the ability to take video.

    Where is it?

    Who was there, when it happened? That seen what happened?

  7. zen

    Where is the video proof? That’s asking a bit much, Asheville Dweller, don’t you think?

    There may be a plethora of cell phones out there and most take photos and some take video, but demanding video proof isn’t all there is to settling what happened. I carry a camera everywhere i go, and in situations where law enforcement officers are getting all bristly and Alpha, is setting myself up for having the camera taken from me or being manhandled myself. I’ve faced it a few times and it’s much better to get farther away and try and video out of sight, zoomed in, which all but a few phones can’t do.

    And then there’s the point that video-ing something doesn’t automatically make everybody’s intentions and actions clear. That’s why courtrooms aren’t filled with ‘video proof’ because it’s still open to interpretation.

    I don’t know if its police overstepping their bounds or not, but if its anywhere close to the way Juan is describing it, i probably wouldn’t risk whipping out my camera just for “proof.”

  8. bill smith

    [b]Where is the video proof?[/b]

    I know, right? If there is no video, then it didn’t happen. I heard the sun rose today, but I have yet to corroborate it with video proof.

    I know Mr. Halladay. He is a gem of a human, kind and gentle.

  9. boatrocker

    Just a “hey what about this” moment for Ashevilledweller-

    Please research and post here the growing amount of cases of a law abiding citizen being arrested and charged for a trumped-up charge for the simple “crime” of filming police arresting (and using excessive force) on citizens who try to film police in action. Thanks, Patriot Act.

    Forgive my run on sentence,

    Will I be tasered for that?

  10. Johnny

    I happen to know Juan Holladay and my only reaction is to wonder how this could possibly have happened? He is a calm, wonderful man, and I can’t imagine him needing to have been handled so roughly under any circumstances.

    If it comes down to believing his version or whatever version the APD comes up with in their “investigation”, the choice for me is a no-brainer.

    Hey, APD members: You EARN the citizenry’s respect by treating people kindly and professionally at all times. You work for us. If we are not about to fire a weapon at you then be nice. What part of that don’t you get? If you’re not nice, maybe that authority-feeling that gives you a little charge-up ought to be examined.

    Any witnesses: Please step forward if you haven’t already.

  11. Asheville Dweller

    POLICE STATE, POLICE STATE!!!!

    You know how absurd this sounds, yes I know cops go overboard and I have seen it. I am not about to condemn the police for something we know nothing about, I dont care how well you know someone, there is always another side to the story.

    Video evidence goes along way, and if it was a crowd as described then there would be multiple people taking video. Sure does stop people posting the Drum Circle on You Tube. Are the police going to arrest everyone recording this? And its been held up in court that recording the police is constitutional.

    By all means keep screaming Police State, condemn those who have a hard enough job, with no thanks, who have to enter every situtation not knowing the out come. Blame away until we know the facts.

    Im not saying he did or not did anything Im just saying its asanine to attack the police with no proof. By Proof I mean realy proof some folks to step forward to colaborate the story when the trial happens because its all the talk means nothing until you say it in court.

  12. No one here, outside yourself, has said the words “police” and “state” together.

    I think most people know how absurd it sounds until they’ve seen it. It’s certainly not on the level here as it is in other parts of the world but it does rear its ugly head time and again, in many different ways.

    The police don’t care what you video unless you are video taping them. The fact that it’s “constitutionally protected” doesn’t actually protect you at the moment you are taping them. It might get you a settlement or a sentence thrown out but I doubt seriously that one officer is going to say to another, “Geez, Frank, that guy over there just videotaped us beating the crap out of this helpless guy on the street. Too bad we are constitutionally prevented from going over there and beating him down, too.”

    Yes, the police have a tough job. And yes, oftentimes the police find themselves in very nasty situations during routine incidents. This does not in any way excuse them if and when they engage in egregious violation of the standards and procedures they are to follow. Are the police excused for charging a peaceful protest with tear gas and batons while wearing full riot gear? Are they excused for forcing someone at gunpoint to turn over a video camera or cell phone?

    No, they are not, just as no one can be excused for gunning down an officer during a traffic stop or while serving papers.

    As for facts, this story already shows that “facts” are something not quite based in reality. There is what happened and then there are the accounts of what happened. After an event has occurred, facts are immediately obscured and colored by the perceptions of the actors and witnesses. So much for fact.

    If it’s asinine to attack the police without knowing the whole story, is it not equally asinine defend them on the same scant evidence?

  13. Johnny

    Calm down Asheville Dweller. I wasn’t screaming police state. In fact, you’ve been the one bringing it up and shouting it out.

    Hey, if a person you knew and trusted told a similar story about being excessively man-handled by the police without provocation, who would you believe?

    Calling out the APD for their actions here and wanting to see a honest resolution to it can be 100% distinct from having respect and appreciation for difficult job the police do. Is there a part of that that is hard to grasp?

  14. My experience is, no one who is doing something illegal likes it if your are taping them in the act. They’ll even try to stop you, hurt your camera, or try to file some false charge against you. But if it’s on tape, chances are it’ll be a problem for the miscreant. Just don’t let them stop you.

  15. Dionysis

    “Please research and post here the growing amount of cases of a law abiding citizen being arrested and charged for a trumped-up charge for the simple “crime” of filming police…”

    A few among these growing examples nation-wide:

    “Boston Police Arresting People For Filming Them on Streets As Invasive of Their Privacy”

    “Video: Arkansas Man Arrested After Videotaping Police From His Own Front Yard”

    http://jonathanturley.org/2010/01/13/boston-police-arresting-people-for-filming-them-on-streets-as-invasive-of-their-privacy/

    “Rochester Police Arrest Woman For Videotaping Them From Her Front Yard”

    http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=35724

    “Growing Number of Prosecutions for Videotaping the Police”

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/TheLaw/videotaping-cops-arrest/story?id=11179076

    “Police Arrest Teens On Wiretapping Charges For Videotaping Them”

    http://www.pixiq.com/article/iowa-police-arrest-teens-on-wiretapping-charges

    “Man Arrested for Photographing Police Officer Who Came Into His House”

    http://www.dailytech.com/Man+Arrested+for+Photographing+Police+Officer+Who+Came+Into+His+House/article18838.htm

    “police arrested a man who videotaped them against their wishes, charging him with “violating the law regarding videotaping without consent of both parties”

    http://www.pixiq.com/article/cops-arrest-man-for-videotaping-them-against-their-wishes

    There are many, many more such cases documented.

  16. Torpedo

    “Where is the video proof?”

    Why don’t the cops just have video recorders on themselves?

    It’s not like it’s a tech hurdle – other areas are testing it. It’d be a bit more bit more realistic to have a record of an arrest instead of “he said vs she said” or “cop said vs hippie said”.

    It’s easy to clean up a reputation problem if you have a recording that you were doing your job to the letter of the law… much easier than simply disagreeing with no proof.

    Or vice-versa… it’s easier to find a problem if you have one.

  17. Asheville Dweller

    Then I get arrested and then you sue, fight the cause, when you just cave as you all are suggesting you are just giving up and letting them get away with it. Oh wait its only when you feel its convinient . . . . Its much easier to complain about it on a message board.

    Bravo for standing up for your fellow man, just let them win huh? Way go to stand up for your rights.

    If someone was getting misstreated by the police Id have my phone in a heartbeat recording it, despite who it was because I do not live in fear as obviously most of you do.

    And if the crowd was a big as claimed then someone is bound to of recorded it, unless they are all cowards as well. What are they going to do 3 cops arrest everyone?? the entire crowd?

    And its a neutral stance one should take until all the cards are on the table.

    And I have heard certain police agencies are starting to record everything which is a good thing.

  18. An internet tough guy defending the cops. How precious.
    You don’t know what you would do in the situation. You have hopes. You have guesses. You have fantasies where you remember everything you’re supposed to do, and remember quickly enough to do it effectively, and you don’t have the fear of a vicious psychopath in a uniform, hurting you and brutalizing you, to contend with.
    But you don’t know. None of us do. And how dare you make those sorts of assumptions about the people who were there.

  19. Dionysis

    Asheville Dweller: Monday morning quarterback and long-distance critic, making assumptions and insulting people based upon those assumptions.

    Thanks for setting everyone straight.

  20. Asheville Dweller

    Very funny about the Internet tough guy, thanks for not reading part where I said –

    “Im not saying he did or not did anything Im just saying its asanine to attack the police with no proof. By Proof I mean realy proof some folks to step forward to colaborate the story when the trial happens because its all the talk means nothing until you say it in court”

    So quick to be smug and try to wax like you know whats going on. Next time read everything I wrote before decide to enter a conversation.

    And you guys are not Assuming god of whine? So its 100% proof the cops were in the wrong? How open minded, ok all of you just changed my mind the cops are guilty, why wait for a internal review or the court case just dismiss it now.

  21. Johnny

    Interesting site with daily updates on police mis-conduct nationwide:

    http://www.injusticeeverywhere.com/

    And Asheville Dweller, you failed to answer my question earlier. Here it is again:

    “If a person you knew and trusted told a similar story about being excessively man-handled by the police without provocation, who would you believe?”

    Hopefully the truth will come out in court, which is set (now) for September 13th.

  22. Joshua Brunhoff

    I see that in reality the man’s arrest is unrelated to him playing music. But, if any officer were to arrest my mom, a street performer, in this way, they would have one VERY angry combat veteran Marine in there office the next morning. Bless.

  23. Dionysis

    “Next time read everything…”

    Did you “read everything” before making this charge?:

    “Oh boy here we go with “Police State” Nonsense . . .”

    “By all means keep screaming Police State…”

    Where did you read it? I can’t find it except from you.

    You asked “Who was there, when it happened? That seen (sic) what happened?”

    Had you “read everything” yourself, including the actual article, you would have learned from it that ” Among the passersby that night was Rick Fornoff, who describes what he saw. “I assumed the APD had captured some armed and dangerous drug dealer, just by the way they were acting. There was a lot of physical activity going on. There were a lot of police cars there. The crowd was upset with what was going on.

    “Somebody was being tackled,” Fornoff tells Xpress. He’s worked with Holladay as a volunteer with the TEDxAsheville conference, and says he was surprised when he found out who the officers were restraining. “Really? He can’t weigh more than 130 pounds, and he’s a gentle soul.”

    The word “among” indicates there were other witnesses as well, FYI.

    So then, someone on record who was there described what they saw. But since video footage (your requirement for “proof”)has not yet been provided you, then the implication is that this person who was there must be lying, or at least unreliable as a witness.

    It’s not like this kind of stuff doesn’t happen all over the place, with increasing frequency. Does that mean the police acted improperly here? No, but the lack of video footage (evidently due to the cowardice of the crowd, according to you) does not mean it did not. Your defense of police is basically being done by impugning everyone else.

    And Dionysis (or other spelling variations) was not a god, but a mere demigod, thank you very much.

  24. bill smith

    [b]And its a neutral stance one should take until all the cards are on the table.[/b]

    I really don’t think your perspective here could be considered ‘neutral’ by any rational measure.

  25. Oh wow!

    The APD has made a HUGE blunder. They manhandled a public figure (musician Juan Holladay) who is known and loved by many people in this city.

    Now this stupid cop thinks the innocent people of this city will trust him with their safety? Yeah right. APD is gonna have a hard time regaining our trust. Nice going, roid rager.

  26. I hope the Officer loses his job and has to hand out flyers for his next gig. That would be Karma.

    But we know this won’t happen. Police rarely get punished for their crimes.

  27. slowlocal

    there is not always another side to every story, sometimes one story is factual and the other is a lie. kinda like the “fair and balanced” lies on Fox news…..? In this case, a friend of mine was there, was yelling “excessive force” and has agreed to provide a statement. those 200+ people who have signed up on facebook to support juan know this man, know his gentle ways and are standing behind him.

  28. The Trolls Troll

    Apparently Crispy witnessed what happened. You should report to court on Sept. 13 and testify under oath.

  29. budlight

    The APD needs to do something positive for once this year. Can they do that? Will they hire a new police chief who will change this awful culture that APD currently has? This PD needs help!

  30. DEVA P-I

    Juan is a long time friend of my family and a peaceful musician and father who works with children. I’m so glad he is so well known and loved here and not for being a wealthy business man but for being a Good and kind soul because change has GOT to come. They hurt my friend Rosetta, who has one of the most loving, Vegan friendly restaurants in town in front of her children when her and other Peace Activists were marching peacefully in Asheville a few years back.
    I see a small town/city with some strong ideals under their belts here. This is the South. Inequality and the pain of previous generations still weighs and drags at our Divine progress but when something significant such as this display of prejudice (Juan is latino and has long-hair) and brute force, people will talk, we will gather and they will either prove to us just how ignorant and hateful the system we are dictated by is… or they will step up into the Light and grow for the people by the people and with the people like they were intended . Bless up Juan and his family and all you who stood up. Thank you Mr.Cecil Bothwell and Mr. Gary JAckson and the writer, David Forbes. Good works bring good fruits.

  31. Rob Close

    Does anyone else remember the forum on civil liberties at UNCA a few years ago, the big one with many civic leaders attending?

    Asheville CopWatch brought forth evidence about a young man who had been tasered by officers that had removed the safety restraints on their tasers. There were pictures and a write-up from the hospital. All of this was presented to the chief of police, who looked at it for a few seconds, and more or less said exactly this:

    “I know that what you said isn’t true, because the tasers my officers use come with safeties.”

    And somehow the public let him get away with this ridiculous statement, this total disingenuous brushing off of a serious case. He just had it explained that they took the safeties off, and he totally ignores that – was he deaf, or covering up for his men?

    Well, I do remember him saying once that his primary job was taking care of his officers. Not the city. Not our safety. So take that for all it’s worth – and if someone has video from that civil liberties forum, please post it!

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