(Editor’s note: this story contains a video with graphic violence and explicit language.)
Update 1 p.m. — Although the individual involved in this incident was not a Wilmington Police Department officer, the WPD has issued a statement saying the video of the incident is being reviewed. The complete WPD statement is included at the end of this article.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHCSO) is standing by its officer’s use of force in an arrest made last night, depicted in video making rounds on social media.
In the video, the suspect struggles with numerous law enforcement officers, at one point kicking his leg towards a Wilmington police officer, before an NHCSO deputy punches a man at least three times, with two punches landing on the man’s head near the pavement.
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According to Lt. Jerry Brewer, spokesperson for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHCSO), the deputy’s use of force was appropriate for the nature of the arrest.
The man being arrested, Hiram Farmer, was being involuntarily committed for issues relating to mental health. Farmer’s mother had asked a judge for her son to be involuntarily committed, citing he was a harm to himself and others, Brewer said.
After the order was granted, Wilmington Police Officers arrived at his home to make the arrest. Farmer had left to go to the store, and at some point, Wilmington Police Department called the NHCSO for backup.
During Farmer’s arrest, a crowd formed outside Tommy’s Mini Mart on Greenfield Street, including over a dozen civilians and several officers.
When asked whether the NHCSO endorsed the deputy’s use of force, Brewer said punching is an acceptable tactic in making an arrest.
“That’s part of the force continuum,” he said.
According to Brewer, Farmer bit a sheriff’s deputy during the arrest, fought officers, and pretended his arm was broken to get his handcuffs removed. The deputy was later treated at Medac and is fine, Brewer said. Brewer was not clear on the timeline of when any of the events occurred.
“From my understanding, we had to fight him, Wilmington Police Department had to fight him,” he said. “Part of your job, you’re going to have to fight him.”
As for the video circulating on social media, Brewer said it does not show Farmer’s aggression toward officers.
“Obviously someone took cell phone video that is only one aspect of it,” He said. “We have body cam video; we’re going to have a better rendition.”
Brewer said the video was being shown to Sheriff Ed McMahon for further comment. This article will be updated with that comment if and when it is available.
Watch the video below: Warning video contains explicit language and violence.
The Wilmington Police Department issued the following statement:
We’ve recently been made aware of a video circulating online involving our officers and the involuntary commitment of a Wilmington man. This statement aims to provide full transparency and context to a video that does not show the whole story.
The Wilmington Police Department is reviewing video involving the involuntary commitment of 35-year-old Hiram Farmer.
Officers responded to the 800 block of Greenfield Street around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 in reference to a trespassing call. While on scene, Farmer’s mother approached officers and said she had taken involuntary commitment papers out on Farmer, who had a history of being aggressive. Officers then verified the commitment papers and proceeded to take him to the hospital. Farmer attempted to flee on foot, and a short foot chase ensued. Farmer began assaulting the officers trying to restrain him. During the incident, a WPD officer deployed his Taser, connecting with Farmer. Farmer then continued resisting the arrest, by kicking, punching and threatening the officers.
WPD officers and Deputies with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office were also dispatched to the scene to assist with crowd control.
Farmer was transported to New Hanover County Regional Medical Center for his involuntary commitment.
As part of our standard protocol body camera video of this incident will be reviewed by the Professional Standards Unit to determine if our officer’s actions were within policy.
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