TheGrio has launched a special series called #BlackonBlue to examine the relationship between law enforcement and African-Americans. Our reporters and videographers will investigate police brutality and corruption while also exploring local and national efforts to improve policing in our communities. Join the conversation, or share your own story, using the hashtag #BlackonBlue.
Sean Williams is filing a $75,000 lawsuit against the taser-happy cop who fired his weapon as he sat peacefully and tried to follow the orders from police officers last week.
A video shot by a witness shows Officer Philip Bernot using the taser on the back of Williams as sits on a city curb. Since the clip was released, it has gone viral and amassed over two million views on Facebook.
According to the lawsuit, the 27-year-old “has suffered and continues to suffer severe head, neck, shoulder and head pain” as well as “crippling anxiety” and “substantial shame, embarrassment, mental and physical suffering” following the June 28 incident, reports ABC News..
Earlier this week, over 200 people rallied on the steps of the Lancaster County Courthouse last Friday to protest the incident, reports Lancaster Online.
Police had reportedly been called to the scene for a disturbance allegedly involving Williams. He was subsequently arrested on an outstanding warrant, arraigned, then released on unsecured bail.
What made the video of Williams being tased particularly infuriating was the officers were giving him contradictory instructions, which immediately set him up for failure from the onset.
In the footage, the male officer, Bernot, had the Taser focused on Williams’s back, while repeatedly telling him “legs out!” and “straight out!”
“Put your legs straight out and cross them now,” a female officer yells.
Even as he tried to straighten his legs, the officer still fired the shot.
A police report said Bernot deployed the Taser after Williams “failed to follow instructions.”
“If that was a gun, my son would have been dead,” said Williams’ mother, Dana York.
Supporters called for Bernot’s suspension, a community meeting with the police and the creation of a civilian review board to review such incidents in the future.
In a statement, Mayor Danene Sorace called the video upsetting and the incident of “great concern.” Chief of Staff Matt Johnson confirmed a news conference is planned for Monday to address the next steps to be taken.