MUNCIE — Prosecutors have dismissed all four criminal charges against a Muncie man accused of resisting police, in a case that was captured on police body cameras.
On September 5, Delaware County prosecutors dismissed three felony charges against Jessie Vernon for methamphetamine possession, narcotic drug possession, and resisting law enforcement, as well as a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance.
Muncie Police arrested Jessie Vernon in June 2018 after responding to an informant’s tip about Vernon dealing drugs near Main and Gharkey streets.
Body cameras were recording as Muncie Police Officer Chase Hunter found a bag supposedly thrown by Vernon, allegedly with money and drugs inside.
Officer Hunter told his partner, Officer Chase Winkle, to handcuff Vernon: “Hook him up,”
Officer Winkle put the handcuffs on Jessie Vernon while he sat on the curb.
The officers’ body cameras captured Vernon getting to his feet, and then both officers struggled with Vernon before their cameras fell to the ground just seconds later.
The body camera video that recorded was mostly black as you hear Vernon yelling.
Watch the body camera footage below. Note: The video has graphic language and materials that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
“Oh my God, please!” yelled Vernon. “I’m not doing nothing!”
The video showed the officers punching Vernon in an apparent attempt to control the suspect.
“Stop fighting” the officers yelled.
The body cameras were still on the ground as the sound of a stun gun can be heard as officers deployed it on the handcuffed Vernon.
“He f****** bit me,” said Officer Hunter.
More officers arrived on the scene and helped shackle Vernon’s legs and take him to the patrol car.
Five minutes after the altercation began, officers Hunter and Winkle realized their body cameras were on the ground.
“I don’t know which one is which,” one officer said.
Vernon was injured during the altercation, including breaking his collarbone, likely during his initial fall to the ground, police said.
Muncie Police took Vernon to the hospital.
Tests revealed Vernon had marijuana, alcohol and methamphetamine in his system, said Winkle.
“He’s high on meth and he’s doing whatever he can not to go back to jail,” said Chief Joseph Winkle in a 2018 interview with RTV6. “If Jessie Vernon stays on the ground and doesn’t try to get up and get away, and he’s not biting or hitting, none of those injuries would take place. Once you know he's on meth, it made a lot more sense why he acted like he did."
Chief Winkle pointed out they arrested another suspect at the same time as Vernon, who cooperated with officers and was not injured.
“He never fled, he never tried to get away, he never resisted and of course he never got a scratch on him,” said Winkle in 2018.
An internal investigation found Officers Winkle and Hunter used an appropriate level of force during the incident.
RTV6 reached out to Eric Hoffman, prosecuting attorney for Delaware County, to find out why the charges against Vernon were dismissed.
Hoffman said he spoke with the deputy prosecutor who handled the Vernon case.
“He informed me that in his opinion, he did not have sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Hoffman in an email to RTV6. “The defendant and another person were riding a bicycle at night time and the officers observed one of the two persons throw a bag which ultimately contained the drugs. We are unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt which person threw the bag.”
Call 6 Investigates has reached out to Muncie Police for comment on the dismissal of charges against Vernon.
Deputy Police Chief Mark Vollmar said he was unaware of the charges being dismissed, and referred RTV6 to the prosecutor’s office.
Vernon issued the following statement to RTV6:
I'm just thankful that the prosecutors were honorable people and did what is right. Those officers knew what they did to me was wrong. They knew they were being dishonest and were willing to destroy my future to hide the truth. I paid the ultimate price and still don't understand why. I may never know why they did this to me. I've never been scared of dying until that night. This has changed my entire life. It disabled me for the rest of my life. I can't work. I can't play with my son like I used to. He can't even hug daddy without being scared of hurting me. I've had to have life threatening surgeries that weren't successful. The surgeries basically disfigured me. I still have a very long road ahead of me because of what they did. They need to be held accountable and I am ready to fight for making sure that happens and hopefully prevent this from happening to someone else.
Call 6 Investigates spoke with Muncie Police Chief Joe Winkle in 2018 about the body cameras malfunctioning.
Call 6: What was your reaction when you watched the video and saw the body cameras fall off?
Chief: It’s not the first time it’s happened.
Call 6: That’s a problem.
Chief: It can be a problem. Anytime it does happen, it puts into question how did the events really unfold? We want to see how they unfolded and we want the public to (see) if they choose to.
Call 6: Because that’s the whole point of having a body camera in the first place?
Chief: Absolutely. You’re struggling with someone and it comes off and it looks like police threw it off or it’s being covered on purpose and that’s never our intent.
Muncie Police demonstrated for Call 6 the problem with the magnetic mounts used by the officers in the video.
Muncie Police has started using vests that better secure the body cameras and greatly reduce the possibility of dislodging.
Call 6 Investigates obtained a copy of Muncie’s use of force policy, which states officers can use force when a suspect is handcuffed if the suspect is actively resisting and can’t otherwise be reasonably controlled.
Chief Joe Winkle is the father of Office Chase Winkle, the officer who appeared in the body camera video with Jessie Vernon.
But the chief said he had no role in the internal investigation.
“I did not,” said Chief Winkle.
Winkle said the US Attorney General’s office is reviewing the body camera footage.