A disturbing video that made its rounds on social media Thursday shows a white police officer using a stun gun on a seated, unarmed African-American man who was attempting to follow the officer’s orders.
Lancaster, Pa. police reportedly received a call about a man confronting people with a bat and arrived to find 27-year-old Sean Williams. In the video, an officer identified as Philip Bernot, repeatedly tells him to sit on the curb and stretch his legs “straight out” in front of him.
While attempting to comply, Williams leaves his knees slightly bent, after which another officer can be heard saying, “Put your legs straight out and cross them now.” All the while, Bernot points his taser at Williams’ back.
Seemingly confused by the orders, Williams brings his legs closer to the curb to cross his ankles. Without hesitation, Bernot shoots his Electronic Control Device (ECD) into Williams’ back.
“Oh come on, bruh. You’re really going to tase him? He was sitting down,” the bystander who captured the incident on camera can be heard shouting as Williams rolls on the ground in pain. “That’s crazy. That’s why I record everything.”
While police have since said Williams failed to comply with previous orders to sit on the ground, Williams himself has indicated that he doesn’t know why he was tased. Additionally, no bat was found at the scene, and witnesses indicated they never saw Williams holding one.
Mayor Danene Sorace responded to the incident by announcing that an investigation into Bernot’s use of force has been opened, adding, “Like you, when I saw the video I was upset by it and it is of great concern to me. We take the use of force very seriously.”
Officers took Williams into custody for an outstanding criminal warrant for public drunkenness and possession of a controlled substance charges, and he was released after posting his $5,000 bail.