The Department of Homeland Security has cleared a Secret Service agent who choke slammed a Time magazine photographer at a 2016 campaign rally for then-candidate Donald Trump, saying his actions were "reasonable."
According to a DHS inspector general report and documents obtained by Politico, the actions of agent William Figueroa were "reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances [and] was in keeping with USSS use of force policies and training tactics."
During the rally at Radford University in southwest Virginia, Time magazine photographer Christopher Morris had stepped out of a "press pen" to snap photos of Black Lives Matter demonstrators who were being removed from the event, when Figueroa grabbed him by the neck, picked him up, and slammed him onto the table.
Morris then fell to the ground and was seen kicking at Figueroa before briefly placing his hand on the agent's throat.
Figueroa denied any intention of trying to choke Morris and investigators determined that even if he did end up holding him by the throat, it was accidental. The report also determined that he was justified to grab Morris and slam him because the veteran photographer could have used his camera as a weapon.
The determination was made after the inspector general interviewed law enforcement training personnel before concluding that the body slam had been a legitimate use of force.
Figueroa had never been assigned to guard the press before except for one time when he filled in for another agent, the report said. He was instructed not to let camera crews leave the press pen.
Federal officials considered whether to bring charges against both men, but they decided not to do so, the report said.
Morris had not been assigned to cover the rally but was there to catch a ride to the campaign plane to take photos of Trump behind the scenes for a Time interview. The interview was abruptly canceled after the rally incident.
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