Video showing a white police officer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania tasing an unarmed black man has gone viral on social media, drawing condemnation from critics who say it is just the latest case of unprovoked police abuse against people of color.
Police claim that the African American man, Sean Williams was not following their orders at the time of the incident, but bystander video appears to tell a different story.
An officer can be seen shouting at Williams to sit down and stretch out his legs. He follows the policeman’s orders, and then, a second officer can be heard ordering him to “put your legs straight out and cross them now.”
When Williams begins to cross his legs, he is tased.
Williams himself maintains that he was compliant, telling WGAL News 8, “I was tased and I shouldn’t have been tased. Why do you say ‘You shouldn’t have been?’ Because I followed every direction that was given to me.”
The video was captured and posted to Facebook by a nearby witness on Thursday, where it was shared and viewed by tens of thousands of people. Social activist Shaun King also shared the video to his more than one million Twitter followers.
This police officer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania should be fired immediately. After he is fired, the District Attorney should immediately press charges for criminal assault.
What he did here is completely illegal.
This man was compliant, calm, unarmed, and non-violent. pic.twitter.com/kJCjzAoBiE
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 28, 2018
The video set off a firestorm in the community.
A crowd of more than 200 people gathered at the city’s courthouse, demanding justice for what they called “a shocking unprovoked incident of police brutality.” City Councilman Ismail Smith-Wade-El promised action to the crowd, saying, “we are going to get this right — and you are going to make sure of it.”
In response to the community backlash, the Lancaster District Attorney’s office tweeted that police “are in the process of conducting a thorough investigation” and would take further steps pending the results.
We understand the police are in the process of conducting a thorough investigation.
We will take appropriate actions when the investigation is complete, based on all the facts. (2/2)
— Lancaster DA (@Lancaster_DA) June 29, 2018
Lancaster mayor Danene Sorace, meanwhile, criticized police’s handling of the incident in a video posted to her office’s Facebook account, saying she was “upset by it and it is of great concern to me.” She has also vowed to continue an investigation.