OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — A Black 19-year-old said he prayed for protection as he was repeatedly kneed by a police officer on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, during a videotaped confrontation that began over vaping.
“I just asked God to give me the strength and to guide me, protect me so that this officer doesn’t make this my last day,” Brian Anderson, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told WBAL-TV.
Officers patrolling Ocean City’s boardwalk on Saturday had approached a large group that was vaping, which is prohibited in that area, police said in a news release.
As the group walked away, police said Anderson began vaping again, and police told the group again about the ordinance. They said he refused to provide identification, becoming disorderly. He resisted when officers tried to arrest him, police said.
“And I’m asking them, ‘What do they need it for?’” Anderson said. “And then, I’m walking away because at this point, they’re just surrounding me and the next thing I know I’m just on the ground and (the officer was) kneeing my rib cage.”
Anderson was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting/interfering with arrest, second-degree assault, and failure to provide proof of identity. He has been released on his own recognizance.
Other teenagers arrested and charged were Kamere Anthony Day, 19; Jahtique Joseph John Lewis, 18; and Khalil Dwayne Warren, 19. All teenagers were from Pennsylvania, and they, too, were released on personal recognizance.
Police said Day was yelling profanities and approaching officers arresting Anderson; Lewis pushed a public safety aide in the chest and tried to strike the aide with a bicycle he picked up; and Warren was standing on private property with no trespassing signs.
Video shows Anderson being kneed by one officer while several others hold him. A melee ensued involving several officers and some of Anderson’s friends. Anderson’s friend, Gage Patterson, who is not one of the four charged, said an officer shot him with a stun gun.
The friends said they had traveled to Ocean City to celebrate senior week, and Anderson said he’s not sure they did anything that led to the violent outcome.
“To be honest with you, I really don’t know,” Anderson told the television station. “I could’ve been fully cooperative with them and I would have still ended up on that ground being kneed.”
The confrontation is one of two captured on video recently that have prompted calls from officials around the state for police to investigate and reevaluate their use of force in such situations. The second confrontation with police happened June 6 when officers approached another Black teen about vaping. Video shows the teen with his hands up, but as one hand drops toward his backpack, an officer stuns him. Officers later carried him away with his hands and feet bound.
In a tweet, Democratic House Speaker Adrienne Jones called the video “deeply disturbing.”
“Vaping on the Boardwalk is not a criminal offense,” she said. ”Vaping should not yield a hog tie.”
ACLU of Maryland called the use of force in the incidents “inappropriate,” and accused police of not trying to de-escalate, “especially over something as minor as vaping.”
The NAACP Maryland State Conference also wants an investigation. The group is asking that the officers be removed from their posts until the investigation is completed.
“This incident along with other videos show a consistent pattern of assaults on African
Americans and sends a message that African American tourist dollars are either not respected or wanted,” the group said.
But some Eastern Shore lawmakers, including Del. Wayne Hartman, have defended the officers. Hartman, a Republican, told The Daily Times that the videos don’t show the whole story and the town council asks officers to strictly enforce ordinances to keep behavior on the boardwalk under control.
“To make a decision from just seeing a video I think is unfortunate,” Hartman said. “I know that both of these cases are very active investigations and they’re going to be looked at very closely, but to make a decision to say that someone overreacted I think is very premature at this point.”
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said law enforcement agencies need to do a full investigation on the incidents.
“It’s possible to look at those videos and question whether the force that was used was reasonable force. You need the full context. You need the full investigation in order to make those determinations, but certainly those questions are raised by the videos,” Frosh said.
The town is investigating the two incidents and will cooperate fully, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said in a statement released Monday evening. Smoking or vaping on the boardwalk isn’t an arrestable offense, but the refusal to provide identification prompted the arrest, he said.
“We hope to seek compliance, not arrests, in order for everyone to safely enjoy our community. We respect the concerns of all citizens and state elected officials who have commented on the videos,” Meehan said. “We pledge, on our part, to work together and thoroughly investigate the incidents in question.”
WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report.
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