Police kneeled on one teen and tasered at least two others over the weekend in a slate of arrests—all for the crime of vaping along a beach boardwalk.
The brutal arrests in Ocean City, Maryland, were caught on a series of viral videos recorded by bystanders June 12 and shared on social media.
One minute-long viral video with over 2 million views on Twitter shows police surrounding an 18-year-old with his hands up. As the man reaches his left hand behind him toward a backpack, an officer fires his taser, hitting him in the abdomen and dropping his limp body to the ground.
A second video shot by the same Instagram user shows officers carrying the man away from the scene by his arms and legs. The user claims that the man was hogtied during the arrest for vaping on the boardwalk, though these details can’t be confirmed in the video.
The Ocean City Police Department said on Facebook Monday that the officers used force on the teen after he became disorderly. They say the teen threatened the officers, and even spit on them. The statement also says that the young man had a switchblade in his book bag. He was arrested on charges of assault, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest, according to police. He was held on $3,000 bond.
The chaotic scene wasn’t the only instance of police use of force that day. One of the videos shows a police officer repeatedly kneeling on a Black man who’s on the ground as two other cops try to help carry out the arrest.
“Stop resisting,” one officer says.
“I’m not resisting. Tell me what you’re arresting me for,” the man replies before the officer begins raising his leg and driving it into the man’s abdomen.
As dozens of onlookers watch the first arrest unfold, police are seen on video confronting three other Black men just a few feet away. The men are seen yelling at the officers, before arresting one of them. The officers then set down their bikes as a barrier between the men and the arrest occurring behind them.
When one of the men picks up an officer's bike and tosses it, things quickly escalate: The two groups begin to shove each other before the men are back up against the wall. One of the men is tackled to the ground and arrested, while the other is pulled, kicked, then tased at close range by the cops before being handcuffed.
In a press release Sunday, Ocean City Police said a group of men were first approached by police because they were violating the city’s ordinance banning smoking and vaping outside of designated areas of the boardwalk. After the first warning, police say the men were seen vaping once more as they walked away. When the men were approached again, police say one of the men, identified as Brian Everett Anderson, 19, refused to provide ID and began acting disorderly.
Police say two men, later identified as Kamere Anthony Day, 19, and Jahtiquue Joseph John Lewis, 18, did not comply with orders to back up away from the scene of the arrest. According to the department’s account of events, Lewis picked up the bike and tried to hit one of the officers with it before shoving another, while Day cursed at the officers and kept trying to approach the area where Anderson was being arrested.
Lewis and Day have been charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, obstructing and hindering, second-degree assault and resisting/interfering with an arrest. Anderson was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, second-degree assault and failure to provide proof of identity.
Police say they arrested their fourth man, 19-year-old Khalil Dwayne Warren, as they secured the area where the first arrest took place. Police said Warren was standing on private property and ignored a lawful order to leave by police. They claim Warren became disorderly and resisted arrest. He was charged with trespassing-posted property and resisting arrest
All four men, who are from Harrisburg, PA, have been seen by the Maryland District Court Commissioner and released on their own personal recognizance.
Ocean City Police did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment and clarification in any of the arrests, but released a statement saying officers are allowed to use the kind of force seen in the video.
“Our officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance. All uses of force go through a detailed review process,” the statement reads. “The uses of force from these arrests will go through a multi-level examination by the Assistant Patrol Commander, the Division Commander and then by the Office of Professional Standards.”
The videos stirred reactions from activists and politicians alike. Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund shared the video on Twitter asking Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to investigate the incident and for Maryland Congressman Andy Harris to chime in.
Maryland’s House Of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones called the video “deeply disturbing” on Twitter Monday morning.
“Vaping on the Boardwalk is not a criminal offense. Black and brown children should not be tased while their hands are up. Officers should not kneel on the back of a minor. Vaping should not yield a hog tie,” she tweeted. “I urge Ocean City officials to make review of this incident a top priority, dismiss the overzealous charges against this young man and reform or retrain officers on use of force immediately.”