Police Officers Make Mentally Disabled Man Eat Cinnamon

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.

An Associated Press story (via the Washington Post) gives this account of the extremely cruel and inhumane treatment of Martin at the hands of (now former) police officers and public servants.

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.


Related Care2 Coverage

Autism Diagnosis Often Delayed For African-American Children

Who’s the Real Phony? Santorum on Abortion and Disability

Alabama To Close Most Hospitals For Mentally Ill: Pros and Cons


Photo by Quatrostein via Wikimedia Commons


Dale Overall

Being fired is certainly not enough for what was clearly a case of assault-forcing any substance be it healthy or not--and certainly not in this amount-down the throat of a disabled person or any person for that matter is highly illegal. Getting a laugh out of their illegal act and making fun of a person with a disability or other health problem is criminal-they should have spent time in jail!

Kathy Perez
Kathy J5 years ago

omg. how can any human treat another person that way? there truly is no hope for this world

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

Procecute and sentence to whatever anyone else would have got for a crime like this. Firing them is just a start.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie C5 years ago

These police officers and town officials should be ashamed of themselves!!! By during that to a handicapped man, they disgraced their town of Tutweiler, and their state of Mississippi.

They had to have known by the way he talked that Denareus “Ted” Martin was handicapped and just let it go.

Sheri P.
Sheri P5 years ago

wow...how can anyone be so mean to another human being, especially a disabled one?

Jay Williamson
Jay w5 years ago

disgusting at least justice was served and they were fired

Lynn C.
Lynn C5 years ago

This kind of thing goes on all the time.
"Little men, dressed in brief authority" Shakespeare.
The question is how can 'good' cops continue to work with people like these? They probably don't after a while. They just quit. One I know of quit when called on the carpet for not using "adequate force". They're all becoming brutes!

Deborah D.
Deborah D5 years ago

Firing is the least of what should happen to those people. This seems like there should be some community service in a supervised manner...

Possibly even a civil suit. I rarely advocate civil litigation but something along this line is just plain unacceptable.

Daria D.
Daria D.5 years ago

Wow.'Really'???Some redneck acting like AHOLES!!! Geez......whoda thought.It;s GOT to be something in the water in those states.

Virginia B.
Virginia B5 years ago

These are the kind of people who should suffer the old-fashioned punishment of being put in stocks in their town square! -- and then be spat upon and mocked in their turn. This was so despicable! Do they not realize that mind and emotions are two separate entities in each person. Someone who may be retarded has just as strong emotions as anyone else. Imagine that poor soul's suffering!