BARTOW (FOX 13) – Bartow police are reviewing a claim of excessive force after a video was posted online showing a police dog being released on a man who was later charged with resisting arrest.
Marquis Wright, 21, of Bartow, was approached at his home as police tried to serve a warrant on Wright’s younger brother. Three officers are present in the video, which shows Wright on the ground.
A K9 appears to bite the man, and pictures show several places where Wright’s skin was punctured.
“He is a musician, he coaches basketball in the community, so you can’t paint him as some thuggish person that is uncivilized,” said Pastor Clayton Cowart.
But police charged Wright with resisting arrest with and without violence.They say the 50-second video doesn’t tell the whole story of the encounter that lasted several minutes.
Family says police had the wrong guy, that it was really Wright’s little brother who violated probation.
Cowart says the incident parallels what African Americans have experienced in cities around the country.
“We teach our children to go out, respect the law, do what’s right,” he said. “Well, when you do, it still happens.”
Bartow police say this incident is under review, and have met with the pastor, who is also asking for the state attorney’s office to step in.
“Those officers need to be taken out of office if they have this kind of mindset,” said Cowart. “Second, we need a continued addressing of these issues.”
Over the last year, Bartow police have been plagued by issues of race. An officer was fired for calling Barack Obama a gorilla. The chief has also been accused of firing another because he was black.
“Even in our own community, sometimes people just seem to push it by,” said Cowart. “We need to address it and say it does exist. That’s the first thing, you can’t address what you deny.”
Bartow police say great relations with the community is highly important to them and have held several community meetings about the past incidents,
They don’t yet have enough information to know whether the use of force against Wright is justified but say this incident is being thoroughly reviewed.
Wright’s brother is 17, but his family says he turned himself in a half hour later. The Polk County Sheriff’s website shows no previous arrests for Wright. He was released from jail.