Author: American Military University
By PoliceOne Staff
LANCASTER, Pa. — A man filed a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania officer after video of the LEO using a TASER on him went viral.
WCAU-TV reported that 27-year-old Sean Williams is accusing Lancaster Officer Phillip Bernot of using excessive force and denying his rights while also racially profiling him. A bystander captured video of Bernot using a TASER on Williams, which went viral and sparked outrage.
On Thursday, police were called after receiving a report that a bat-wielding man was chasing after three people. An officer who arrived said she saw three people telling a man, identified as Williams, to get away from them.
The officer said she repeatedly told Williams to sit down, but he refused. The officer also said Williams kept telling a woman to give back his Social Security card.
Bernot then arrived at the scene and instructed Williams to sit on a curb.
As seen on the video, after Williams sits, Bernot tells him to put his leg “straight out,” but Williams keeps his knees bent.
A Lancaster Police spokeswoman said officers ask suspects to put their legs out “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,” the spokeswoman said.
After several commands, Williams can be seen in the footage putting his legs out and then moving them back toward the curb. Bernot uses his TASER on Williams and orders him to lie on his stomach before several officers place him in handcuffs and take him into custody.
Police said a group of people allege that Williams was behaving erratically in the days before the arrest. The group also said Williams wanted to fight them and kept trying to keep a woman from entering her apartment, but added that they didn’t see him holding a bat.
Williams, who had an outstanding warrant prior to his arrest, said he complied with the officer’s commands and that he had done nothing wrong. The suit said Williams was held in extreme pain while in custody and wasn’t offered any medical attention or water.
After the video was widely shared, Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace said an investigation into the incident was underway.
“Like you when I saw the video I was upset by it and it is a great concern to me,” she said. “We take the use of force very seriously.”
Lancaster police did not say if any of the officers involved were placed on administrative leave. The department also did not comment on the lawsuit.