Student witnesses to the tasing of a man outside the Village Market last week say it appeared officers pinned the man so that he was unable to follow their orders.
A deputy with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) tased Paul Joseph Rimelspach, 33, of Galena, Ohio on the evening of Sunday, May 3. Two eyewitnesses said that, at one point during the interaction, the deputy and two Campus Safety officers surrounded Rimelspach as he lay on the ground, and that one or more of them attempted to hold him down. Two witnesses indicated that one of Rimelspach’s arms was pinned beneath his body. The officers, according to eyewitness Chloe Farrell ’16, repeatedly ordered Rimelspach to cease resisting arrest before the deputy delivered a shock with a Taser.
“I looked outside, and I saw a young white man face down on the ground with three cops around him and partially on top of him,” Scy Krogh ’15, who lives in Farr Hall, said. She could see the incident from her window.
“It was really upsetting because I couldn’t see him struggling,” Krogh said. “He seemed like he was completely subdued for a while, and he seemed very desperate to follow their orders, but they weren’t really telling him anything to do other than stop resisting.”
Sheriff David Shaffer of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday he was too busy to be interviewed when asked about whether officers may have used excessive force in dealing with the suspect.
“A crisis intervention officer made contact with the male, who appeared to be having mental health issues,” Shaffer wrote in an email Tuesday. “The male refused to comply, began resisting and was eventually tased by the officer. He was transferred to the hospital where he continued to be uncooperative and was eventually transported to the jail.”
“After the case is complete we would be able to release more,” Shaffer said.
According to the narrative given in the KCSO report, prior to the incident Rimelspach had been “making comments about murder and or killing.” The report also indicated that Rimelspach had spoken to students near Gund Commons, and appeared to those students to be hallucinating and/or mentally unstable.
Farrell, who also lives in Farr Hall, said she was studying when she heard yelling from the street, but began observing the scene only after a text message from Krogh directed her attention to the incident.
“From what I could tell, his pants were down,” Farrell said. “He was already on the ground, but the police kept telling him not to struggle. He kept saying, ‘I’m not struggling, I’m not moving, get off me.’” Farrell said that, because all three officers were crowded around Rimelspach, it was difficult to see exactly what was happening, and that at times she could not tell whether he was struggling or not.
Farrell also said she felt “kind of nervous” after Rimelspach began pleading for help from bystanders, whom he addressed as “citizens of the United States.”
Krogh said the manner of arrest “seemed like an excessive use of force.”
“There were three cops on top of this one kind of scrawny guy,” she said. “By the time I started watching, he was pinned on the ground, and he had been for multiple minutes before they tased him. It was very distressing to hear how panicked he was in his voice and not see any appeal to reason or logic work on the cops.”
Farrell said a firetruck arrived shortly after the officers tased Rimelspach.
“At that point it didn’t seem like he was really moving,” Farrell said. I couldn’t tell if he was unconscious or hurt in some way — I don’t really know exactly what tasing does to you. It seemed like he got hurt, because they took him away on a stretcher from the firetruck.”