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Video appears to show Oklahoma deputy punching teen at state fair

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Department deemed the attempted arrest a justified use of force.
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The attempted arrest of a 17-year-old boy was captured in widely shared video, officials said Tuesday, appearing to show him being punched in the head by an Oklahoma sheriff’s deputy.

The incident unfolded Saturday night at the Tulsa State Fair as the teenager was being detained by Tulsa County sheriff's deputies, officials said.

As he is face down and being handcuffed, one deputy is on the boy's lower half and the other is on top of his head and shoulder area, video of the arrest appears to show.

Image: Boy punch during arrest by Oklahoma sheriff
Video appears to show a 17-year-old boy being punched in the head by an Oklahoma sheriff’s deputy during his arrest.Brandon Alexander

“Our deputies were waved down by several civilian fairgoers who pointed out that there was a male individual and a female individual in line for one of the rides and the male individual was acting extremely belligerent, being intoxicated and causing a large disturbance that concerned the citizen bystanders,” Capt. Mike Moore, the Tulsa State Fair commander for the sheriff’s office, told the Tulsa World.

Moore said the teen resisted arrest and fought with the deputies, who used "the force necessary" to subdue him.

Witnesses disputed that the force was necessary.

"They had thrown him to the ground," Brandon Alexander, 38, told NBC News on Tuesday. "And then I saw the other cop that’s on his head area, rear back and just punch this joker right in the face, just blasted him right in the face, and I watched his head bounce off the concrete."

The teen and another boy were sitting on the ground as deputies were arguing with the 17-year-old's girlfriend over whether she should be allowed to call her parents, Brandon Alexander and his wife, Tiffany Alexander, both said.

That's when the 17-year-old boy picked up a plastic bottle and threw it into the ground in frustration, prompting the deputies to handcuff him, Tiffany Alexander said.

"The guy got upset about the way they were treating his girlfriend. And then he picked up the plastic liquor bottle and threw it. And that's when [deputies are] saying he picked up the bottle and tried to run," she said.

"I never saw the kid try to run. As soon as he picked up that bottle and threw it, two cops pummel him to the ground."

The incident will go to a use-of-force review board, sheriff's spokeswoman Casey Roebuck told NBC News. The case is still under investigation, and the findings will be presented to the Tulsa County district attorney's office.

"He was transported to a hospital to be treated for the alcohol intoxication, so he wasn’t booked the night of the incident," Roebuck said. "When and if charges are filed, he’ll be booked." 

Roebuck declined to name the deputy who appeared to throw the punch. She did say a racial slur was used against the deputy, who is Black.

Brandon and Tiffany Alexander said they never heard the boy utter a slur, and they insisted that he was not struggling against deputies.

"He did look like he was probably drunk," Brandon Alexander said. "His head was bowed down, and he looked like he was really intoxicated and not very conscious already to begin with."