He had a run-in with the police and ended up in the hospital. His parents want to know why
TROY, Alab. — Two parents want to see police body camera and dashcam footage of their son’s arrest after an encounter with Troy, Alabama, police last Saturday left the 17-year-old badly beaten and hospitalized.
Photos — one of which mother Angela Williams posted on Facebook, where it was shared more than 80,000 times — show Ulysses Wilkerson in a hospital bed, the white sheet beneath his head bloody. His nose and lips are crusted in blood, and his left eye is swollen shut.
The boy’s father, Ulysses Wilkerson Jr., said his son’s eye socket was cracked in three places, he had swelling on his brain as well as massive facial swelling.
Williams, during a news conference Friday, demanded that the police officers involved in the case be held accountable.
“While I’m hopeful that the State Bureau of Investigation will uncover the truth, I still call on the community to take a stand,” she said, surrounded by family members and supporters at a church in Brundidge, Alabama. “We will not settle until we know the truth behind the brutal beating of my dear son and until these police officers are held accountable for their crimes.”
She also said Ulysses was worried about the damage to his eye.
“He’s worried about that eye,” Williams said. “He’s worried about that he’s going to lose it.”
In her Monday post, Williams claims Troy police officers assaulted her son while he was in handcuffs and haven’t provided her much information. Troy police say they used “reasonable and necessary” force to subdue the teen after he reached for his waistband.
“I’m heading to Birmingham to UAB he has fracture and had to transport to have surgery,” she wrote.
While they’ve provided short statements on Ulysses’ Sunday arrest, Troy police and the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) have yet to divulge key pieces of information, despite multiple requests from CNN. Among them: the officers’ identities; whether the officers are on leave during a state investigation; whether a gun found near the scene was linked to Ulysses; and whether the teen still faces charges.
While the Troy Police Department issued a news release saying Ulysses was charged with misdemeanor obstruction and resisting arrest, the youth’s father told CNN affiliate WDHN that police dropped charges.
“They had him handcuffed when we got in there. They said he was charged with obstruction of justice. The ambulance came to take him to (University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital). They took the handcuffs off of him and dropped the charges on him,” the father told the Dothan station.
Troy police referred questions about charges to the SBI, which declined to answer specific questions and re-sent CNN a news release it had provided the network the day before.
Pike County District Attorney Tom Anderson told CNN he was unsure if Ulysses still faces charges.
The information provided by police is “vastly different” from what Ulysses’ parents are alleging, the prosecutor said. For instance, the parents allege police used force while Ulysses was handcuffed, but Anderson said police claim they used force only after Ulysses reached into his waistband for what officers feared could be a weapon.
Anderson said there is police body camera video from the incident, although one officer did not have a body camera turned on. It is not clear how many officers were involved.
Anderson said he has not had a chance to review video and audio from the interaction. He said he hasn’t spoken with police or the mayor about releasing the video, and Ulysses’ parents have not requested to meet with him.
Anderson’s last conversation with police came on Christmas Day, he said. At least one of the officers has received threats on Facebook, the prosecutor said.
‘Reasonable and necessary’ force?
In a news release, Troy police said officers saw Ulysses walking out from behind a downtown business around 11:52 p.m. Saturday. As officers approached the teen, he fled and officers gave chase, police say.
After apprehending Ulysses, Troy police say, “he resisted arrest and refused to comply with commands from the officers to place his hands behind his back. The subject continued to struggle with officers and kept reaching toward his waistband as if he was attempting to access a weapon; all while repeatedly ignoring officers’ commands to stop resisting and give them his hands,” the news release said.
The statement continues, “Officers had to use physical force to affect the arrest. The force used was reasonable and necessary.”
That’s disputed by family members and supporters.
“We do know for a fact that Ulysses remembers one thing — a big, tall white officer kicking him in the face,” said pastor Kenneth Sharpton Glasglow, a local civil rights leader, at the news conference.
Later, when officers retraced the path of the foot chase, they found a handgun on the ground, which was being processed as of Monday, police say.
Passerby Brittany Patterson told WDHN she saw officers surrounding Ulysses after the chase and said the boy appeared unconscious as she drove past the scene.
“You could see the swelling on his face,” she told the station. “You could tell that his face had a lot of bleeding. He looked, like I said, like he was passed out maybe, or in and out of consciousness or something.”
Her first thought, she said: “I hope they’re not beating him.”
Released from hospital
Ulysses was taken to Troy Regional Medical Center before being transported two hours north to UAB Hospital, police say.
According to Anderson, Ulysses had surgery on his orbital socket on Christmas Eve. Both hospitals said Thursday that Wilkerson was no longer a patient.
Troy Police Chief Randall Barr has requested that the SBI investigate his officers’ use of force. The agency sent officers to Troy to conduct interviews and collect evidence, the SBI said in a statement. The SBI will hand over its investigation to Anderson’s office when it’s complete, the agency said.
“I’m waiting to see the SBI report and review the audio and video content, and then put it on the grand jury that is available at that time,” the prosecutor said.
The next Pike County grand jury convenes the last week of February.
In an interview with CNN, Ulysses’ mother said she just wants some answers.
“This happened on the 23rd and as of today I still don’t know (what happened),” she said Friday. “I just know what I’m reading.”
When Williams first saw her son lying in a hospital bed, she she said she couldn’t recognize him because he was “disfigured.” She fell on her knees and began to pray.
“I couldn’t believe they’d do somebody’s child like that,” she said. “I don’t care if they were 7 or 47. Police shouldn’t beat nobody like that.”
She said she wants other parents to be aware of what happened to her son, because she never thought something like this would happen to her child.
“You know, you hear about it in the media but I would have never thought that — I guess in Troy I never thought that it’d happen,” Williams said. “Not like that.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated when Ulysses Wilkerson encountered police.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify a statement from Pike County District Attorney Tom Anderson about the existence of body camera video from police officers’ encounter with Ulysses Wilkerson.