Knoxville photographer John Messner told the Daily News that his initial reaction was that Phillips "choked that boy out." Phillips was allegedly been fired for using excessive force and two other deputies placed on paid leave, pending further investigation.
According to the report, the series of photographs show 21-year-old Jarod Dotson being handcuffed with his back to two deputies. Then they show Phillips moving to the front, wrapping his hands round Dotson's neck, the officer's face "contorting ... as he appears to squeeze."
Messner told the Daily News that that Dotson "never resisted, flinched, jerked or even said anything" and that Phillips had used excessive force.
According to a post on the website of the Knox County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones fired the 47-year-old Phillips, who had been with the department since 1992, and posted a statement:
A letter addressed to Phillips from Jones cited the former's "gross incompetence, inefficiency, and negligence of duty," as determined after a review by the department's Office of Professional Standards. The letter further stated that Phillips had "placed this agency and yourself in danger of unwarranted litigation" and that his actions were a case of "dereliction of duty."
"In my 34 years of law enforcement experience, excessive force has never been tolerated. After an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, I believe excessive force was used in this incident. Therefore, Officer Phillips' employment with the Knox County Sheriff's Office is terminated immediately. The investigation will now be turned over to the Knox County Attorney General's Office to determine any further action."
"This incident provides a perfect example of why we are in the process of purchasing officer worn body cameras (video and audio recordings) so incidents like this will be fully documented."
Dotson was charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest, despite his apparent cooperation in the series of pictures, and was released from jail on a $500 bond Sunday morning.
Although these were the only reports of officers being investigated or disciplines, some bystanders claimed that poor behavior by officers was far more widespread.
Daniel Lee, a student interviewed by WBIR, said that the police were "kind of getting real rude with people. I mean I was walking out slowly, I guess, because I was still wanting to see what was going on, but I had one cop just come up to me and flash his light in my eye and he was like, 'Where are you going, boy? Where are you walking?'"
Another student at the party, Blake Roller, said that he saw "students getting basically bullied by these police officers. They were taunted by the police officers, saying, 'Hey, come at me, bro!'"
There were other reports of students claiming to have seen police using excessive force throughout the night.