Sheriff confirms Skate Castle incident was within policy, witness says too excessive

DECATUR, Ala. - Many Decatur parents are saying they are unsure if they'll let their kids continue to come to the Skate Castle after a scuffle was caught on camera over the weekend. 

The video, showing an off-duty Morgan County deputy handcuffing a teenage girl at the skating rink, has sparked a lot of reaction -- and questions online.

WHNT News 19 is Taking Action to get to the bottom of what happened after many parents said they felt the video shows excessive force on a teen.

Tanisha Wiggins recorded the viral cellphone video, and says she's watched it dozens of times, still in shock.

"With these being children, my child was in there," she said. "I’m not sure what the issue is, how it started, who is at fault but I feel the force used wasn’t called for when dealing with these kids."

She says officials should look into what exactly happened, and the general public should refrain from pointing fingers in any direction until the narrative is unveiled.

She says she's seen a lot of social media users discussing race, and she says that shouldn't be part of the conversation.

"It's not white and black," said Wiggins. "The way it was handled was too extreme for any child, no matter what color. This officer should've been better trained before they sent him to a skating rink to work in a building full of children."

She fears that incidents like this will cause kids to fear the law enforcement that is supposed to serve and protect them.

Meanwhile, the rink's owner says he saw no wrongdoing on the parts of his staff and the deputy.

"All that was shown was her being arrested," said Skate Castle owner J.A. Phillips. "I knew there would be a blow-up but I also knew there was more to the story. We don't just treat kids like that for no reason."

Phillips defended the off-duty officer's actions. He said putting handcuffs on a child is a last resort solution for the business, and that the whole story wasn't being told.

 

WHNT News 19 spoke to Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin about the expectations and limitations of an off-duty deputy, she says off-duty assignments are approved by the sheriff`s office. Once on assignment, she explains, they can do anything that would normally fall within their role as a deputy.

She said it's no different from if a deputy witnessed an incident while they were out with their husband or wife.

"They can make an arrest if need be," explained Franklin. "That doesn't stop when they're in or out of uniform. It's what they're sworn to do. They can detain someone or effect arrest if they need to."

She wants to clarify that private business owners who request off-duty deputies can also place restrictions on what they can do, but they do so, she explains, to protect the business and the patrons.

Sheriff Franklin says that no complaint has been filed against the deputy regarding the situation.

She says because the people involved are minors, they can't release any more information, including whether the teenagers were charged or released to their parents that night.

Meanwhile, WHNT News 19 spoke with the father of the boy who the owner accused of starting the domino effect. He said he would like to see the tapes from inside of Skate Castle to see exactly what happened.

Phillips says for the first time in 35 years, he will now be closing Skate Castle at 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. He said the change isn't directly a result of the incident but thinks the change will help deter things like this from happening.