Update- Use of Force Investigation from September 24, 2015
The video which was posted on a social media site only shows part of the entire chain of events. Specifically, the video does not demonstrate the view the officer had nor does it show the active physical resistance leading up to the lawful deployment of the electronic control weapon (ECW). The Fairfax County Police Department’s use of an ECW, also known as the TASER, by policy directive is a less-lethal force option. The ECW provides an alternative level of force whereby the officer can avoid going “hands-on” to avoid escalation of a physical confrontation which may lead to higher levels of force options and injury to all involved. To read our Standard Operating Procedure regarding the use of ECWs, click HERE.
The officer, a seven year member of the department, currently assigned to the Franconia District Station, was confronted by a man, later identified as Elton Cansler, who was physically resisting a lawful arrest, assaulted the officer, and kept reaching to his pocket where a knife had been seen by the officer. At the time of the deployment of the ECW, the officer could not see where Mr. Cansler’s hands were going and had reasonable fear that Mr. Cansler was again reaching into his pocket for the knife.
The officer’s discretion was appropriately used to deploy a form of a less-lethal force and in compliance with all policies and laws in this matter.
In order to hear the original call for service regarding this incident, click here.
The following is the timeline of events which occurred on September 24, 2015, which led to the lawful arrest of Mr. Elton Corneal Cansler for a larceny he committed:
- At 1:48 p.m. Mr. Cansler walked into the SunTrust Bank located at 6050 Rose Hill Drive in Alexandria, Virginia. Once in the bank, he proceeded to an employee break room where the manager was sitting. The manager heard a knock on the door. The door opened and the unknown man entered the room and closed the door behind him. The bank manager then decided to leave the break room and asked Mr. Cansler to move in order for him to exit back to the lobby area. The manager then went behind a teller desk to call police. Mr. Cansler walked out into the lobby, took the manager’s sunglasses from his desk and walked out the front door of the bank. A teller was yelling for Mr. Cansler to put the sunglasses back as he walked away.
- No one in the bank knew Mr. Cansler.
- The branch manager then alerted their security company, who in turn called the Fairfax County Department of Public Safety Communications Center (911 center) and provided a description of the suspect –black male 5’11”-6’ wearing a black ball cap with grey rim, grey shirt. Mr. Cansler was wearing the described clothing and is 5’11” and 230 lbs.
- At 1:51 p.m. police officers from the Franconia District Police Station were dispatched to the larceny event.
- At 1:58 p.m. the officers arrived at the scene of the bank.
- An officer observed a person near a convenience store who fit the description of the suspect. This person was later identified as Mr. Cansler.
- At 2:02:21 p.m., the officer exited his marked police cruiser to verbally engage with Mr. Cansler, who fit the suspect description and Mr. Cansler immediately put his hands in his front pockets.
- The officer asked Mr. Cansler, to remove his hands from his front pockets and asked him if he stole the sunglasses. Mr. Cansler took his hands out of his pockets and replied “yeah” and then put his hands back into his front pockets. At this time the officer noticed Mr. Cansler had a knife clipped to his right front pants pocket.
- Again, the officer asked Mr. Cansler to remove his hands from his pockets and again Mr. Cansler complied.
- The officer asked Mr. Cansler where the sunglasses were, and when Mr. Cansler physically moved, the officer said he would get them. Before the officer could stop him, Mr. Cansler reached for his right-rear pants pocket and produced the stolen sunglasses and handed them to the officer.
- Again, Mr. Cansler then moved his right hand toward his right-front pants pocket where the knife clip was visible. The officer ordered Mr. Cansler to place his hands on the police cruiser in order to initiate his arrest.
- Mr. Cansler then turned away toward cruiser and locked his elbows.
- The Officer grabbed Mr. Cansler’s right wrist and held him against the driver’s side door of the cruiser while Mr. Cansler locked his elbows to prevent the officer from arresting him.
- At 2:02:51 p.m., the officer called for a backup officer via his police radio while trying to hold Mr. Cansler against the cruiser.
- The officer then ordered Mr. Cansler to move his hands behind his back. He did not comply with the lawful order and kept his arms locked out (stiff) on the cruiser.
- Mr. Cansler kept his arms locked and used his body to push back against the officer, assaulting the officer, and actively resisting a lawful arrest.
- The officer then tactically created distance from Mr. Cansler by holding him with one arm and then removed his ECW from thigh holster on his left leg. At this time the officer made the decision not to escalate the resistance into a hands-on fight with Mr. Cansler.
- After drawing his ECW, the officer backed away from Mr. Cansler and had his ECW pointed at Mr. Cansler’s back and ordered him to put his hands behind his back in order to be handcuffed.
- Mr. Cansler again refused the lawful commands to place his hands behind his back and made a forward movement with his hands at which time the officer deployed his ECW to gain control of Mr. Cansler. The officer could not see where Mr. Cansler’s hands were going and had reasonable fear that Mr. Cansler was again reaching into his pocket for the knife.
- At 2:03:30 p.m. the ECW was deployed for one five second cycle, which caused Mr. Cansler to fall to the ground.
- Mr. Cansler was again ordered to put his hands behind his back, He did not comply. At 2:04 p.m., another officer arrived and assisted the first officer in handcuffing Mr. Cansler.
- Officers searched Mr. Cansler’s person after being handcuffed and found a black and silver folding knife in his front right pocket.
- The ECW darts were removed from Mr. Cansler in accordance with policy.
- A police supervisor arrived on the scene and offered to call Fire and Rescue units to provide any medical attention, however, Mr. Cansler refused treatment.
- Mr. Cansler was transported to the Mount Vernon District Station to appear before a magistrate.
- Mr. Cansler refused to speak to the magistrate. Arrest warrants were issued for larceny and assaulting a law enforcement officer.
- Mr. Cansler continued to disregard commands to sit when being processed or remove his shoes.
- Because he continued to be combative, a prisoner transport vehicle was called to transport him to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
- Mr. Cansler continued to resist the arrest while handcuffed by attempting to use his foot to block the door of the prisoner transport vehicle and he had to be physically moved for transport.
- After transport to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, Mr. Cansler was medically cleared by a nurse and remanded to the custody of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office.
- Mr. Cansler was released on bond on September 25 and has a scheduled court date of November 24, 2015.
In this particular matter, based upon the facts demonstrated in the timeline above, the deployment of the ECW was a lawful and an appropriate less-lethal force option deployed by the officer to effect the arrest of Mr. Cansler. As noted above, Mr. Cansler was actively resisting the officer by physically struggling and refusing to obey lawful commands to place his hands behind his back to be handcuffed to complete the arrest for the crime he committed[i] Additionally, it was very clear to the officer that Mr. Cansler had a knife in his right front pants pocket and he kept placing his hands in that pocket.
Based upon the totality of the facts presented to date, Mr. Cansler fit the lookout description for the larceny, the officer lawfully detained him and Mr. Cansler admitted to the crime in addition to producing the stolen property. The officer had lawful authority to physically arrest Mr. Cansler. The facts of this matter are:
- Mr. Cansler admitted to the larceny and produced the stolen property.
- Mr. Cansler clearly had a knife in his right front pocket.
- Mr. Cansler physically refused to obey all lawful verbal commands to place his hands behind his back to be handcuffed. This created a physical struggle with the officer.
- The officer chose a less-lethal force option by deploying the ECW rather than other higher level force options to gain control of Mr. Cansler in a manner that complies with all policies and the law.
To view the video which includes the portion posted to social media, click here.
To view a video provided by a second witness at the scene following the use of the ECW, click here.
Below are photos of the knife that was removed from Mr. Cansler upon his arrest.