Texas police: Man was faking seizure in viral video

Witnesses said they heard the student yell "stop choking me" in a struggle with officers, but police say the video doesn't show the full story


By Julian Gill
Houston Chronicle

DENTON, Texas — A viral video of a college student apparently seizing in a North Texas police officer's squad car earlier this week has been viewed almost two million times in four days, sparking outrage on social media.

Witnesses said they heard the student yell "stop choking me" in a struggle with officers, but the University of North Texas Police Department in Denton says the video doesn't show the full story.

Police say the man appeared to be faking a seizure after he was taken into custody on a theft charge, and they have since released the full 39-minute body camera video of the incident.

The video covers the time he was taken into custody until his booking at the Denton County Jail. It shows the inside of the vehicle when the suspect, identified as UNT student Peyton Long, appeared to be convulsing. It also shows a police officer grab his neck — a move that police say prevented him from hitting his head against the safety cage.

"The officers grasped the suspect below his jaw to control his head movements and prevent him from biting," the police department said in a press release issued Thursday, two day after the incident. "His airway remained clear as he continued to talk to the officers. The suspect then began to shake his entire body, mimicking the symptoms of a seizure."

They department goes on to say that based on the officers' training, the man appeared to be faking the seizure.

Long was booked into Denton County Jail on a misdemeanor charge of theft between $100 to $750, according to university officials speaking on behalf of the police department. He has not yet retained an attorney, according to misdemeanor court records, and he did not immediately respond to a phone call and message requesting comment.

The bystander who originally posted the video on Twitter, who goes by the handle @pleasehelp420, could not immediately be reached for comment. Her caption on the post reads "always record the police if ur white."

Since the video was posted Tuesday, the police department has responded to an ongoing flood of criticism on the post, referring viewers to its full-length video on the university website. 

In a press release, UNT police said the incident started when they responded to multiple theft reports at the university library. Police said they located and arrested Long at the top level of a nearby parking garage.

After police detained the man in the squad car, the bystander started filming as police officer asked her to back away from the scene.

"I'm not interfering whatsoever," the bystander says in the video.

Police said the video "misrepresents the professional actions our officers took to prevent the suspect from seriously harming himself."

Their body camera video shows Long asking officers what he was accused of stealing. Long then appears to slam his head multiple times against the safety cage in front of him. At that point, one officer grabbed his neck and told him to stop.

"You just choked me out," Long can be heard saying in the video.

Long speaks to officers about his charge as they explain to him he's going to jail. He appears to strike his head once more against the safety cafe. An officer again grabs him by the neck while asking him to stop.

"Why do y'all keep choking me?" Long says in the video, which also shows him fall back and close his eyes as his body shakes in the back seat.

Chunks of the video did not have sound. Police said Texas common-law privacy protects the suspect's individual rights when it comes to comments he made while in custody. As a result, they muted some of the audio.

Police said they transported him to the jail and immediately requested medical support. Paramedics evaluated and cleared him before releasing him to jail staff, police said.

Court records show he bonded out of jail Wednesday after posting his $1,500 bail.

©2019 the Houston Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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