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Temple PD internal investigation finds officers did not use excessive force in October arrest

The report describes the incident between officers and Kenneth Wright as police tried to arrest him last year.

TEMPLE, Texas — An internal investigation into a Temple Police Department officers' use of force against 55-year old Kenneth Wright in October found that officers did not use "excessive or improper force during the event," according to Temple police. 

"After thoroughly reviewing the evidence, I have determined that officers' use of force in this incident was appropriate and warranted," Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds said in a release Friday announcing the investigation results.

However, the release said the investigation did result in "shift-level" counseling for an officer due to the use of improper language.

The incident in question began when Officer Michael Sapp conducted an area check on the 700 block of N. 20th St. when he came across Wright after 3 a.m. Thursday, Oct.1. Police said Sapp made voluntary contact with Wright, and learned he had four outstanding misdemeanor warrants.

Police said Wright asked if he was under arrest, to which Sapp responded that he was going to be detained. Sapp tried to reach for Wright's arm to handcuff him, but Wright tried to flee, the release said. 

Officer Zachary Quick arrived on scene as Wright tried to flee and lost his footing, causing him to fall, TPD said. Quick tried to hold Wright's legs while Sapp tried to control Wright's upper body and arms. 

The release said Wright had not been searched or patted down for weapons at that time and that both officers tried to get Wright to lay on his stomach. 

The release said police body cam video was "not clearly visible" due to limited space between Wright and officers, the lack of light and one of the officer's body cameras falling off during the incident. 

Per the release, the two officers tried to get Wright to comply, but he did not and ignored officer instructions for him to get on the ground. Quick told Wright he would be tased if he did not get on the ground and when Wright didn't comply, Quick applied a drive stun, the report said. Quick reported that he applied a knee strike to the subject’s leg during the struggle.

Wright said several times that he could not breathe and that an officer chocked him during the incident, according to the release. The investigation by TPD produced no evidence that either officer choked or restricted Wright's airway at any time, the release said. 

Wright continued to yell, and both officers said they could hear and see him breathing the entire time, according to the release. 

The officers called for a supervisor and EMS after Wright was detained, as required by policy, the release said. Wright said he was experiencing back pain and was taken to Baylor Scott & White in Temple once EMS arrived at 3:30 a.m., the department said. They added he did not have life-threatening injuries and was released the next day.

The release said Wright was arrested and taken to the Bell County Jail for outstanding warrants on Oct. 20, 2020 after a traffic stop in the 200 block of West Avenue I.

“This was not a criminal investigation into the officers’ actions, but rather an administrative review to determine if any policies or procedures were violated,” Reynolds said.

An internal affairs investigation was ordered by Reynolds, after a family member contacted the department.

The report found that officers did not use excessive force during the incident, according to the release, but one officer received a shift-level counseling for use of improper language. 

The review also "revealed an inconsistency" between TPD’s taser policy and the training officers receive related to taser use. The policy, does not explicitly allow tasers to be used in drive stun mode, but is an acceptable tactic officers are trained to use under certain circumstances, according to the release.

Reynolds amended TPD policy to require appropriate use of the drive stun technique consistent with the training TPD officers receive, the report said.

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