IOWA CITY, Iowa – An Iowa trooper jammed the barrel of his loaded rifle into the shoulder of a surrendering suspect at the end of a chase, police video shows, leaving the man with an injury and pain that he says lasted for weeks.
The video sheds light on the unusual use of force, one that the Iowa Department of Public Safety had largely kept secret since it happened 18 months ago. The Associated Press obtained the video through an Iowa open records law request, with the department agreeing to release it only after suspect Shanne Arre pleaded guilty in December to eluding and operating while intoxicated.
Arre, 28, admits he was high on drugs when he fled from an officer trying to stop him for speeding in northwest Iowa near LeMars in June 2015. After driving through farm fields, he eventually crashed in a ditch as several patrol cars pursued him.
Squad car video shows officers using flashlights to search for Arre for three minutes before one spots him on the ground in tall grass and tells him to put his hands up. Iowa State Patrol officer Jeremy Probasco approaches Arre, telling him not to move and twice directing him to put his hands "in the small of your back." Probasco stuck the barrel of his rifle into Arre's shoulder blade after the first command.
Policing experts say the rifle strike appears to be excessive, noting that officers are discouraged from hitting suspects with their guns due to the potential that they could discharge.
"It's hard to say I can see any justifiable reason to go to that length there," said David O'Laughlin, director of training at the Municipal Police Institute in Massachusetts. "I don't see for myself or hear any resistance offered other than the guy concealing himself."
He added: "It's kind of risky to be poking somebody with a rifle. What if the thing goes off? That's crazy."
Arre said that after crashing, he crawled out of the car and lay down with his hands up in the grass to surrender.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety said officers didn't know that Arre was unarmed. Arre moved his hands so they were hidden in the grass "and it appeared to the trooper that Arre was either going to push himself up off the ground and/or grab a weapon," the agency said in a statement. Probasco didn't have time to use a Taser or baton, so he "poked" Arre with the barrel of the rifle to gain control of him before he was cuffed, the statement said.
Arre denies hiding his hands and says he moved them only to comply with Probasco's order. He said the "poke" felt more like a hard punch.
In the video, Arre says he's trying to comply but expresses pain, saying: "You hit me for no reason, dude." Probasco denies hitting him. Arre then reacts in pain that he says was caused by an officer kneeing him in the back: "Ow, ow! What the (expletive) dude? Come on. You are smashing my (expletive) spinal cord."
"You should have thought about that before you ran," an officer responds.
Arre told the AP he believed the force was "extreme," saying he was unarmed and not resisting. The rifle strike left him with the red circle outline of the barrel marked on his back and pain that he says was recurring for the rest of that summer and fall. He said he couldn't lift his arm for a couple days, even though he declined medical treatment.
"It was kind of reckless of him to hit me with a rifle like that, loaded up. I understand his frustration, but at the same time, it was very inconsiderate of what could have happened," he said. "Just like it was inconsiderate of me to run, not knowing what kind of danger that I put them in. But I'm on drugs. What's his excuse?"
Plymouth County refused to release photos an investigator took of Arre's injuries, saying they're part of a police investigative file and exempt from disclosure.