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Tennessee policeman fired after photos show him choking student

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - A sheriff in Tennessee fired an officer after a British newspaper published photographs on Sunday that showed him choking a handcuffed college student until he lost consciousness.

The photographs published by online edition of the Daily Mail showed an unidentified officer appearing to throttle 21-year-old Jarod Dotson, while two fellow officers handcuffed the student's hands behind his back, after arresting him at a party near the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville.

The student did not appear to show any sign of resistance, while the officer, later identified as 47-year-old Frank Phillips, held him by the neck until he collapsed to his knees.

John Messner, the Knoxville photographer who took the pictures, described to the Mail how the officer then slapped Dotson around the head a few times before walking off.

Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones said in a written statement that Phillips was found by department investigators to have used excessive force during the arrest on Saturday night.

"In my 34 years of law enforcement experience, excessive force has never been tolerated," Jones said in the statement, posted on the Knox County Sheriff's Department website.

"After an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards, I believe excessive force was used in this incident," the sheriff said.

Jones said that Phillips had been terminated with immediate effect and that the investigation would be turned over to the Knox County Attorney General's Office to determine if any charges should be filed. Phillips had been with the Sheriff's Office since 1992.

"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," the sheriff concluded.

Dotson was charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest. He was released from jail on $500 bond Sunday morning.

He was among several party-goers arrested, when law enforcement personnel were summoned to a party, attended by a reported 800 revelers, that had turned unruly and spilled onto the streets. Beer bottles were thrown at officers when they arrived at the scene, according to local media reports.

No comment was available from University of Tennessee spokesmen, the university police department or from various student organizations Sunday evening.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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