Eyewitness testimony of Devin Butler‘s girlfriend and the fiancee of Fighting Irish wide receiver Torii Hunter, Jr., say the Notre Dame cornerback was a victim of police brutality during his weekend arrest.
South Bend police say Butler assaulted an officer, punching and slamming him to the ground, which necessitated the use of a stun gun to subdue him. From the AP:
South Bend police spokesman Lt. Joe Galea said that after officers broke up a fight inside the bar they saw two women fighting outside when Butler allegedly shoved one of the women. Butler was agitated and when officers told him to back away he allegedly pushed the officers and then attacked one of them.
The affidavit says Butler tackled an officer to the ground, punched him several times in the side and stomach and pulled off his duty belt.
“He shouted profanities at the officers and started swinging his fist,” Galea said of Butler.
But the eyewitnesses paint a picture diametrically opposed to the account of South Bend police. Butler’s girlfriend Haleigh Bailey told the South Bend Tribune:
“I was there that entire night. Reports say that everyone left the scene but I was still there and saw everything officers did to Devin.
“He was abused, and wrongly arrested. He never tackled an officer and he never intentionally hurt anyone. He had no reason to be tazed because he was never resisting arrest, and he was already on the ground complying when they tazed him.”
Butler has been charged with resisting law enforcement and battery of a police officer — both of which are felonies. He pleaded not guilty.
Police were originally called to the Linebacker bar early Saturday morning after a call reporting fights between patrons and bar security. Bar personnel said the fight was subdued by the time police arrived, but officers intervened in a fight between two women outside the bar. That’s when, police say, Butler shoved one of the women involved. Officers tried to detain Butler, but he resisted and ultimately assaulted the officers. Officer Aaron Knepper was evaluated for minor injuries to his back, arm, elbow and wrist at South Bend’s Memorial Hospital, but was later released.
“That 100 percent did not happen,” Selina Bell, Hunter’s fiancee, told the paper. “Devin didn’t even have the capability to pick someone up if he wanted to. He just got off of crutches the day before.”
Butler underwent surgery in June for a fractured foot, a aggravation of an injury he originally suffered in the Irish’s Fiesta Bowl loss in January.
Added Bailey, in a message to the Tribune:“Reports say that Devin did all of these aggressive things but in reality, he was grabbed by the police from behind and never told who was grabbing him or why they were grabbing him. Devin felt he was doing the right thing but out of nowhere was arrested for simply stopping an argument. He felt he had no reason to be detained… Devin has been in a boot/cast and on crutches recovering for the past 8 weeks. He is in no condition to be lifting weights, working out, or doing any ‘tackling.’ I have not seen him run let alone walk on two feet since the day before his surgery in June. I can assure you he did NOT tackle a police officer but police officers tackled HIM.”
Knepper was found guilty of unconstitutional behavior earlier this month for unlawfully entering a home and mistakenly using a Taser on a 17-year-old boy earlier this month. He was reprimanded in August of 2012 for forcing a 7-Eleven clerk to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon and eat 10 crackers in less than a minute, and in March of 2014 a 55-year-old South Bend resident and his 76-year-old mother accused Knepper of excessive force resulting from a traffic stop in which they were accused of resisting arrest and battering a police officer.