A video of Columbia police arresting a naked man on St. Patrick’s Day appears to contradict the department’s claims he was advancing toward officers and instead shows them firing a Taser at his back as he moves away.

Police arrested 32-year-old Alexander C. Wells about 2 a.m. March 17 on Broadway near Eight Street. He was booked at the Boone County Jail that morning on suspicion of first-degree sexual misconduct and resisting arrest. He posted $1,000 bond a short time later and was released.

No charges have been filed in state or municipal courts as of Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement about the incident released March 18, police spokesman Jeff Pitts stated in an email that officers were dispatched after a call reported Wells was allegedly intoxicated, trying to start fights and had stripped off his clothes. He wrote that when officers arrived, Wells was completely nude and advanced toward officers.

“While officers were interacting with the subject he continued to advance towards them, so officers had to use the least amount of force to prevent any injury towards the subject, bystanders as well as officers,” Pitts said.

Bystander video, provided to the Tribune by the police-accountability group Citizens for Justice and available on its YouTube channel, however, paints a different picture of the incident. The video shows Smith was not advancing toward officers.

 

Wells is seen walking toward the curb with his back toward officers when a Taser was apparently fired at his back. After being struck in the back, he falls to the ground.

Through city spokesman Steve Sapp, department commanders and city administrators declined an offer from the Tribune to show them the video and report their reactions.

The images in the video raise questions of whether officers followed the department's use of force policy. It states officers, “to the extent possible,” are to use a physical or weaponless control techniques, then escalate to pepper spray before an electrical weapon is deployed.

Interim police chief Geoff Jones was out of town and Pitts was in a training session and neither were available to answer questions, Sapp wrote in an email.

The department reviews all use of force incidents, Sapp wrote, but he could not say what the status of this incident was. He added it would not be appropriate to offer a response until a review of the incident was complete.

“All use of force is investigated,” Sapp wrote. “In absolute fairness to all parties involved, we will not be forced to answer a question or questions when an investigation has not been completed and all pertinent evidence has been reviewed through a due process.”

In the video, bystanders are heard in the background chanting for the police to fire a Taser at Wells prior to officers doing so.

“Get him, taze him,” the group can be heard saying repeatedly.

An unidentified man can be heard apologizing to Wells after seeing him fall to the ground.

“Oh (explicative)! We’re all sorry bro,” the man exclaims.

Wells could not be located for comment on the video or the actions of the arresting officers.

Sapp wrote in the email that he will work to arrange a meeting between Jones and reporters next week to review the video.

ppratt@columbiatribune.com

815-1718