Rock Hill Police, NAACP Leader Call For Patience Amid Investigation Into Brothers' Arrests
The president of the Rock Hill NAACP in South Carolina joined with local clergy members, the city's mayor and police chief, and the York County sheriff on Wednesday to urge patience as an investigation continues into the arrests of two Black men at a Rock Hill gas station last week.
Rock Hill NAACP President Norma Gray said she had viewed police bodycam footage of the incident, as well as additional surveillance footage obtained by an attorney for the two men and shared with reporters on Tuesday, and said she found the videos troubling.
"Anyone in their reasonable, right mind, would find what they've seen disturbing," Gray said, without offering further details.
However, she pressed the public to remain calm while the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, also known as SLED, conducts an investigation into the incident — stressing that the videos might not show the full picture.
"It's a very different thing from being a witness to a video, and being a witness on the scene," Gray said, adding that she supported the police department's decision not to publicly release bodycam video of the incident until the completion of the investigation.
Facebook Video Shows Scuffle
The Rock Hill Police Department has said officers were conducting a drug-related investigation when they pulled over Ricky Price at a gas station on Willowbrook Avenue on June 23 for making an illegal turn and changing lanes unlawfully.
Police say a search of Price's car turned up two bags of marijuana and an illegal handgun. Officers say they had handcuffed Price when his brother, Travis Price, arrived on the scene and began moving toward officers.
The events that followed were partially captured in a Facebook live video that has since been viewed more than 126,000 times. In the video, several officers are seen surrounding the two men and wrestling each to the ground separately. One officer punches Ricky Price several times in the leg as he's held to the ground, and police said an officer also punched Ricky Price in the nose, causing his face to bleed.
In a press release shared with reporters later that day, police said officers had removed Ricky Price's handcuffs to allow him to pass some of his jewelry to his brother, but when his handcuffs were removed, police say he attempted to flee and threw several punches at officers, striking one in the face.
Police said Travis Price had used his body to "bump" officers and did not comply with orders to move away from the scene. When told he was under arrest for interfering and physically contacting officers, police say Travis Price refused to place his hands behind his back and shoved an officer, leading to the scuffle.
The arrests sparked three nights of protests in Rock Hill beginning last Wednesday, with many protesters condemning the officers' use of force.
Attorney Disputes Police Account
An attorney for the brothers, Justin Bamberg, disputed the police department's version of events during a news conference Monday.
He shared surveillance video from a nearby store that he said did not show Travis Price bumping or shoving officers before he was surrounded and wrestled to the ground.
Rather, Bamberg said the video showed Travis Price complying with officers throughout the encounter, and he said the officer who approached Travis, pinned him against a fuel tank, and swung him to the ground in the video appeared to do so without physical provocation.
When asked about the surveillance video Wednesday, Rock Hill Police Chief Chris Watts said that the investigation was ongoing and "we will be looking at all that and explaining all that at the proper time."
Watts again said the names of the officers involved and all police footage of the incident would not be released to the public while the SLED investigation is underway. However, he said the department would allow the Price brothers and their attorney to view the footage soon.
He said the bodycam footage had been shown to Gray and other clergy members present Wednesday, although those who saw it did not want to comment on it until the Price family was allowed to see it themselves.
The Wednesday news conference was billed as a "Unity for our Community" press conference. Rev. Lester McCorn, president of Rock Hill's Clinton College, read a message of unity to reporters and said the city and the police department had agreed to "re-form an interracial, nondenominational ministerial alliance" that would "organize, strategize, and mobilize when necessary" in the wake of the incident.