‘Stop choking me’: UNT police video shows campus arrest that sparked controversy

University of North Texas police released a lengthy video of an arrest in a campus parking lot after a viral Twitter video drew criticism of the officers’ actions this week.

In both videos, multiple UNT police officers can be seen detaining a young man in a police car on the top level of Union Circle parking garage in Denton on Tuesday. In the Twitter video, the man is seen shaking as an officer leans over him. A second officer attempts to move a woman as she films them on her phone.

UNT police, in a statement released Thursday evening, said the Twitter video “misrepresents the professional actions our officers took to prevent the suspect from seriously harming himself.”

Video from inside the patrol car shows a man later identified as Peyton Ryan Long, 19, talking with officers. After being told he will be transported to jail for suspicion of theft, Long begins to thrash back and forth, possibly hitting his head.

At that point the officer grabs him around the throat.

“Why do you keep choking me?” Long says clearly.

Long then begins to shake as if in a seizure.

“The officers grasped the suspect below his jaw to control his head movements and prevent him from biting. His airway remained clear as he continued to talk to the officers,” Police Chief Ed Reynolds said in the statement. “Based upon the officers’ experience and training as emergency first responders, the suspect appeared to be faking the seizure.”

Twitter user @pleasehelp420, who The Dallas Morning News identified as UNT student Carissa Simpson, said she started filming the incident after she heard the man say “stop choking me.”

“As soon as they saw me recording they got off of him,” she said on Twitter.

UNT police were investigating reports of theft at the Willis Library, the department said. At the beginning of the police video, Long can be heard saying he took a backpack by mistake.

Long was booked into Denton County Jail in connection with theft, according to jail records. A UNT spokeswoman told the Morning News he is a university student.

He also had an outstanding warrant out of Euless on a criminal mischief charge, jail records show. Long was released on bond.

While en route to the jail, Long can be heard saying “all of them choked me.”

On Twitter, Simpson defended taking the video of UNT police as other Twitter users criticized her.

“im very glad i was there because the officer stopped touching him once he saw me recording. always hold cops accountable & always use ur privilege if u have it,” she Tweeted.

The UNT police department also tweeted at Simpson.

“It is understood that community members will video officers performing their duty and UNT PD supports their efforts. All that is asked is that the public do so at a reasonable distance to ensure the safety of both the officers and citizens.”

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.
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