An officer with the Anchorage Police Department is facing assault charges for the amount of force he used while making an arrest last month, according to a community alert from the department.

APD says officer Cornelius Aaron Pettus, 32, contacted someone in Anchorage regarding a bicycle violation on Sept. 30. The man he contacted was uncooperative and left the area. Pettus later went to the man’s home with another officer to issue citations.

According to charging documents, the man followed Pettus and the officer "taunting them" after being served the citations. Video from the other officer's in-car camera recorded part of the encounter.

"In the video, Officer Pettus snatched [the man's] phone out of his hand, saying that it was 'evidence' related to the bike citations," the documents state. "The video then showed [the man] step closer to Officer Pettus while asking for his phone back."

Pettus then pushed the man away and turned around to walk back to his car, but the man continued to follow him and demand his phone be returned.

As they walked toward the driver's side of Pettus' car, the dash camera on Pettus' car caught more of the encounter on video.

"That video depicts Officer Pettus stopping near the front, left side of his car and turning around with his right fist balled up," the documents state. "[The man] walked into the frame and came to a stop."

According to the documents, the man appeared to be in a neutral stance. His right hand was loose and at his side. His left hand was not visible on the video, but other footage showed he had the citation papers in that hand.

"Officer Pettus then punched [the man] in the jaw and followed up the strike by kicking [the man] in the groin," the documents state.

The other officer on the scene was walking away from the encounter, with a "detached" manner. Instead of going to help, he looked on "without a change in expression," according to the documents.

Pettus then took the man out of view of the camera. The documents state that at some point, Pettus used his pepper spray on the man. The other officer then assisted with putting him in handcuffs.

Pettus’ supervisor reviewed his use of force immediately and APD subsequently launched a criminal investigation.

During an interview with detectives, Pettus said the man was in a fighting stance and had his fists balled up, slightly raised. He told detectives that he believed the man was going to assault him.

Pettus also wrote a similar account in his police report following the incident.

After being shown the video of the encounter, Pettus told detectives that he remembered it differently. The documents state he didn't recall kicking the man.

The Office of Special Prosecutions charged Pettus on Friday.

“As I have stated before, APD has absolutely no tolerance for misconduct by its officers. We will unequivocally maintain the high standards that our community expects of us, and that we expect from ourselves,” said Chief Justin Doll. “I understand the community may have concerns, however everyone can be confident that our internal process thoroughly identifies any problematic conduct, and APD moves swiftly to handle it appropriately.” 

In an interview Friday afternoon, Doll elaborated saying:

"I think that we normally do have a pretty low level of police misconduct. I know the community probably has concerns because over the summer we’ve had several incidents, and we’re concerned about that as well, but I think that we’ve proven to the community that we take those things very seriously. We take the appropriate action and then we’re very transparent with the community and tell everybody when it happens and I think that’s the most you can expect out of any police department. I think when you see communities that have trouble with their departments and frustration it’s because those things are not taking place. So the one thing that I’d say to our community is, you can trust us to do these kinds of things, to let you know when there are problems and to take the appropriate action."

Pettus has been with APD since 2015. He is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation.

The man involved posted videos of the exchanges with Pettus online. His youtube account contains several other videos of encounters with Anchorage Police. He often swears and shouts derrogatory names at them. A check of his criminal history reveals he was convicted of assault on a police officer earlier this year.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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