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News In Brief

'Indefensible,' Putney Says Of Officer Who Held Gun To Suspect's Head

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney speaks at a press conference on April 27, 2017. Putney addressed the use of force shown in bodycam footage from a March 2016 arrest.
Molly Mathis
/
Charlotte Observer
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney speaks at a press conference on April 27, 2017. Putney addressed the use of force shown in bodycam footage from a March 2016 arrest.

CMPD Police Chief Kerr Putney says he will not defend the actions of a police officer who tackled a suspect, pressed a gun to his head, and said "I will kill you," while making an arrest last year. Still, Putney says the officer's actions were legal.

The arrest was made in March 2016, but is only now getting attention because of recently-released body camera footage. Officer Jon Dunham is heard threatening to take the man's life, before punching him repeatedly in the head as other officers hold the man down and tase him.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Putney said he would not "defend the indefensible."

"I'm not going to defend some of the language," he said, "nor am I going to defend all of the tactics used, especially on behalf of Officer Dunham."

Putney says officers are trained not to hold weapons too close to people. That's to prevent a suspect from grabbing an officer's gun or Taser.

Still, Putney said the officer was legally justified in drawing his weapon, because he reasonably believed the suspect was armed. He later put away his gun when he realized that wasn't the case.

Dunham has since resigned from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. He now works for the Davidson Police Department.

Police say the suspect, James Yarborough, was being detained at a felony traffic stop when he took off running from the police. He was later charged with resisting arrest and possession of a firearm by a felon. Both those charges were ultimately dropped.

Yarborough now tells WSOC-TV he's considering filing a lawsuit.