Arrest of man in Gulfport brings claim of excessive force

Published 12:30 am Sunday, April 20, 2008

Police in Gulfport say an investigation continues into a confrontation that began when an officer was allegedly assaulted while on patrol.

Authorities said the officer was attacked in Gulfport near the intersection of Three Rivers and Rippy Road. There are also allegations that police used excessive force to arrest the man accused in the assault.

Rose Green and Ronald Jackson say they witnessed the arrest of Tracy Butler on Tuesday and felt officers used excessive force, including pepper spray, multiple shots with a stun gun and dropping the suspect on his head. Ronald Jackson is Butler’s cousin.

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Gulfport police said Butler’s attack on the officer was unprovoked. The police report says Butler was laying in the middle of the road, posing a traffic hazard. Police said that when a motorcycle officer stopped to see if Butler was OK, the suspect assaulted him.

Deputy Chief Alfred Sexton said that Butler stood up and “got aggressive with the officer. Actually attacked the officer. The officer radioed for emergency assistance and other officers responded a few minutes later they were able to finally apprehend the individual, taking him into custody.”

The two witnesses who say they saw the way officers handled Butler acknowledged that they did not witness how the confrontation began. They told television station WLOX that the Tracy Butler they know would never assault a police officer.

“Just like any incident, everybody sees 30 second spots. But you know, the individuals who were there from the very beginning, all the way to the end, we’ve interviewed all those witnesses. We’re continuing to interview individuals,” Sexton said.

Tracy Butler faces a felony charge of simple assault on a police officer. Both Butler and the unidentified officer were taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries.