A white police officer has been placed on administrative leave after CCTV footage showed him appearing to strangle a black teenager during a hostile confrontation.
The incident took place after deputy Neil Pizzo exchanged words with 17-year-old teenager Terrance Devon Reed III inside Sarasota County Juvenile Assessment Center, in Florida, US, on September 1.
Deputy Pizzo said he took action to defend himself because Reed “jumped up with a look in his eye”.
Footage released by Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office shows Pizzo approaching Reed who has his arms inside his shirt, but gets up just before the altercation starts.
The officer grabs him by the throat and pushes him against the wall before dragging him to the floor.
He then repeatedly hits him until another officer comes in and places handcuffs on Reed.
Pizzo is now on administrative leave pending an investigation, The Herald Tribune reports.
In an incident report, Reed allegedly claimed that he was cold and Pizzo told him to remove his hands from his pockets, which he described as “a common practice of Deputies to assure no one is attempting to harm himself or other around them”.
Reed threatened to kill him and used racial slurs against him, Pizzo claimed.
He added in the report: “As I approached he jumped up from the bench. Mr. Reed quickly pulled his arms out of his shirt and said ‘I’ll f*** you up.’
“I saw the look in his eyes and the stance that he immediately went into. Mr. Reed had his fists clenched and it was imminent I was going to be attacked and struck.”
Reed, who had been arrested for drug charges, probation violation and other counts, was taken to a hospital for a sprain and an abrasion on his head.
Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight told AP the lack of de-escalation techniques was concerning.
“If a deputy is trying to de-escalate and you go hands-on and you have a confrontation, what did he attempt to do prior to the physical confrontation to prevent it from happening?” he said.
The incident came as the latest in a string of heightened racial tensions after the death of George Floyd, who was killed during an arrest in May.