BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A police chief who said his officers received death threats after being accused on social media of beating a suspect and throwing him off a bridge in Alabama answered with the best weapon he had: body camera video.
Rainbow City Police Chief Jonathon Horton said he knew he had to act when claims about his officers mistreating a man began showing up on Facebook and spread quickly. A woman who identified herself as the mother of the man’s children posted that he was “beat half to death” by Rainbow City police and pushed off a bridge Thursday night.
“We’d received more than 100 messages threatening to do all sorts of things, rape and kill our wives and children and launch an all-out war on police,” Horton said in an interview Monday. “It was pretty crazy stuff.”
While body cameras have come into use as a way to monitor police behavior, Horton decided to use it for another purpose: to show there was no wrongdoing on the part of his officers. Horton posted a 30-plus minute video on the Police Department’s Facebook page that showed officers talking to Jonathan Dawon Davis, 29, during a traffic stop.
Davis was wanted on felony warrants for a drug-related charge and a probation revocation, and a misdemeanor warrant for driving with a suspended license, Horton said.
Told that officers knew who he was, the man bolted and jumped off a bridge over a creek, the video showed. The video showed officers later under the bridge assisting the man, who had a bloody mouth and screamed in agony about a broken leg.
Horton said officers neither prompted the man to jump nor struck him, but they did use a stun gun on Davis when they first located him along a creek bank under the bridge because he was still trying to get away.