Police Arrest Bystanders After Northside Arrest
Exclusive Video of Late Night Tazing On The Packet Website
Packet Staff Report
[UPDATE: Video referenced in this article can be seen below].
[UPDATE: This version has been edited to reflect the fact that Robert Mitchell did not post the video himself]
A Columbus man who filmed a woman being TAZERED by police was among three bystanders arrested at the scene of a dramatic incident last Wednesday night in Northside Columbus. The incident began minutes earlier during a routine traffic stop near the intersection of 18th Street North and Fourth Avenue N.
According to a release by the Columbus Police Department, officers had signaled the emergency lights on a grey Mazda 3 sedan when the passenger attempted to quickly exit the vehicle. An unidentified officer advised her to close the door. As the officer approached the vehicle, the female passenger appeared to become very nervous and repeatedly insisted on going to her residence to get her identification card. The passenger, later identified as Rennie Gibbs, reportedly continued to try to open the door until an officer helped her out and ordered her to the rear of the vehicle and instructed her to place her hands on the trunk.
Gibbs then reportedly backed away from the vehicle and took off running west on Sixth Avenue. Both officers immediately gave chase and caught up with her about two blocks north. Officers reported that she immediately began to fight, and one officer deployed his TAZER electronic stun device. After the first TAZER connected, Gibbs reportedly briefly stumbled, then continued to speed away from the officers once more.
The second officer was able to catch up with her and bring her to the ground in an attempt to handcuff her. After struggling for nearly thirty seconds, the first officer deployed a second TAZER shot, and then a third to get Gibbs to quit resisting. Just as officers had taken Gibbs to the ground, a large group of onlookers had gathered near the scene, most from a nearby birthday party, according to a witness. One of the bystanders, later identified as Robert Mitchell of 21st St. N., began videoing the incident with his cell phone camera. In the video, which a friend of Mitchell’s posted on Facebook while he was in jail, the officers can be seen briefly wrestling with Gibbs while onlookers scream at the officers to stop and for Gibbs to calm down.
The video shows several officers arriving in the area as Gibbs is escorted to a waiting patrol car, as well as officers’ attempts to secure the scene. In the video, two officers walk toward Mitchell and several other onlookers and order them back from the area. A man, believed to be Mitchell, can be heard screaming, “I know my rights! I can video you!”
A female officer immediately responded, “You can have it on film – just get back.”
A few seconds go by with some unintelligible shouting from the crowd, then a male officer returns. He can be heard instructing the crowd to back up, shortly followed by what appears to be (in the video) the arrest of Mitchell. Mitchell was taken into custody that evening and charged with failure to obey a police officer. He was taken to jail and released within several hours on a $412 bond. An acquaintance of Mitchell’s posted the video on his Facebook page the next morning, and it quickly gained steam online.
Although it cannot be seen in the video posted online, two other bystanders were arrested on the same corner within several minutes of Mitchell’s arrest. Lakevia Isaac, of 20th Street N., was arrested for failure to obey a police officer and Dimario Barry, of Fifth Avenue N., for disorderly conduct and public drunkenness. Both posted bond within several hours.
The Packet sent a message to Mitchell on Facebook to ask for his side of the story, but the request went unanswered. However, within several hours of the message being sent, Mitchell deleted the video post from his public page. He later posted several images on his page encouraging to others to “stop snitching,” which is slang for not talking to police after a crime. The Packet staff was able to secure the video before it was deleted and it will be posted on The Columbus Packet website Thursday afternoon [UPDATE: Video can be seen below].
The Columbus Police Department did not release the charges levied against Rennie Gibbs.
[I believe it’s important to note that the posted video does not show the actual TAZING of Gibbs, nor does it show much context of exactly where Mitchell was or who was standing next to him. A witness on-scene told The Packet that Mitchell was much closer to the officers earlier in the incident, and said that he was told to back up once before. I can say the Columbus Police have been more cautious with their TAZERS than they may have been in past years. From what I heard from several witnesses on scene, and from the internal information released by the department, it seems in this case, the officers used reasonable force.
[I do think most people’s initial reaction to the video was that Mitchell appeared to be arrested simply because he was taping the arrest. I believe the fact that others were arrested around him at the same time, and that he was allowed to keep the video without any apparent trouble, does raise some questions about that assumption. Mitchell himself could (and still can) clear up many of the questions about his arrest should he choose to tell his side of the story or release any more video that he may have. I do hope Mitchell’s “no snitching” policy does not extend to his own arrest. The Packet is, for many reasons, always very defensive of the public’s right to record police activities. We are also very aware that when witnesses to crimes don’t speak to the police, or to us, the whole story is not likely to be told to the public. There has been a very positive trend in the past few months of witnesses cooperating with police, and it has definitely helped in the swift arrest of several suspects in recent violent crimes. It will also, in the long run, help make our neighborhoods safer. – CK]
[The Packet was contacted after we went to press that Mitchell did not post the video to question the TAZER incident, only to show what happened during his arrest-CK]