A viral Facebook video showing a Lancaster, Pa., police officer deploying his Taser on a man who was calm, nonviolent and—most importantly—attempting to comply with orders has resulted in an investigation launched by the city.
The video, posted to Facebook early Thursday, shows a man—identified by Lancaster Online as 27-year-old Sean D. Williams—sitting on the curb as a male officer, identified as Philip Bernot, tells him to put his legs straight out in front of him. A female officer, Shannon Mazzante, can be heard off camera telling Williams to cross his legs. As Williams draws his legs back toward himself to cross them, Bernot tells him to stick them back out.
Williams appears to be confused by the conflicting commands. The officers are asking him to stick his legs straight out in front of him and cross them at the ankles, but that is apparently not clear to Williams. He is calm, sitting, not moving toward either officer and still attempting to comply when Bernot deploys his Taser into Williams’ back.
Officer Mazzante was first on the scene around 10:16 a.m., responding to a disturbance call. Officer Bernot arrived shortly afterward to assist her.
Police wrote the following in their statement about the incident:
Off. Bernot instructed Williams to sit on a curb and warned him that if he did not comply an ECD (Electronic Control Device) (sometimes called by the brand name Taser) would be used on him. Williams sat on the curb. Williams was instructed to stick his legs straight out in front of him and to cross his ankles. This is done as a measure of control to insure that if someone is going to flee or offer physical resistance, they will have to move their legs under them to do so. Non-compliance is often a precursor to someone that is preparing to flee or fight with Officers.
When Williams failed to follow instructions, Off. Bernot deployed the ECD on Williams, the probes striking him on his back. The use of the ECD had the desired effect and Williams was placed into custody without further incident or use of force.
Williams was subsequently arrested on unrelated charges. A run of his name brought up an outstanding warrant for possession of a controlled substance and public drunkenness. He was arraigned and released on an unsecured $5,000 bond, according to police.
Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace addressed the incident in a video posted to the city’s Facebook page Thursday. She said she was upset by the video and that it is of great concern to her.
“We take the use of force very seriously,” Sorace said.
She added that the incident has “affirmed my resolve to implement a body camera program here in the city of Lancaster.”
Blanding Watson, president of the Lancaster NAACP, told Lancaster Online that his group is monitoring the situation and that a “full understanding” of the incident “requires a full investigation.”
“This event highlights the need for strengthening the accountability and trust, which necessarily characterizes a productive relationship between communities and law enforcement,” Watson said. “Such a relationship is more important than ever.”
We’ll see what happens. Even when they are caught on camera killing an unarmed black person, they always seem to get away with it.