Terry Tyler, the police chief of the Mississippi town of Tutweiler, has been fired after a video appeared on YouTube that allegedly showed him, two other officers and two town officials “encouraging” an 18-year-old mentally disabled man, Denareus “Ted” Martin, to eat a mouthful of cinnamon as a prank. The video was filmed at the Mississippi Delta town’s City Hall as was another video showing former police captain Jimmy Johnson boxing with Martin behind a shed near City Hall.
WABG-TV first reported about the incident and aired the video of the cinnamon prank. Both videos have now been taken down and, besides Tyler, Johnson, the other police officer, Bobby Banks Jr., court clerk LaToya Ellis and town clerk Angelia Chandler have all been fired.
Martin had been assigned to Tutweiler’s City Hall to “work off fines from a minor criminal charge, though he didn’t know specifically what the offense was” says his attorney, Ellis Pittman.
In the cinnamon video, a woman uses a piece of paper to pour a substance into Martin’s mouth while a group of people can be heard laughing in the background. Martin holds the cinnamon in his mouth for a few seconds before coughing and spitting it out. He runs to a water fountain and then to a restroom, where he appears on the verge of vomiting.
Pittman said his client was choking, but the officials “were all laughing, grinning and having a grand time.”
Those who had been fired, as well as other Tutweiler officials including the mayor, Genether Miller-Spurlock, did not return requests for comments.
Pittman said that the incident may have started after Martin told the officers that “they ain’t about nothing.” Afterwards, says Pittman:
“They took him out back behind a shed and put some boxing gloves on him, saying, ‘If we ain’t nothing then come on.’ They proceeded to beat him up.”
The Associated Press does not go into specifics about Martin’s disability. But his not knowing exactly what offense he had committed to be at City Hall suggests challenges with cognitive functioning that could have led to him saying a seemingly inappropriate remark. The officers’ and town officials’ treatment of him was inhumane and inexcusable and, as the parent of an autistic teenage son with intellectual disabilities, makes me very fearful of what my son could suffer if he is not provided with the necessary supports.
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