OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — A Black 19-year-old said he prayed for protection as he was repeatedly kneed by a police officer on a Maryland beach town’s boardwalk 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. But police said Anderson began vaping again and 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.”
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 and three friends were arrested, police said. 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 Tases 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.”
But some Eastern Shore lawmakers, including Delegate 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.”
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.”