A group of Black teenagers who were forcibly arrested by Ocean City police over the weekend on the Maryland Eastern Shore following an alleged vaping violation are speaking out after footage of the encounter went viral.
“We were scared at the time,” 19-year-old Kamere Day, one of the teens who was arrested, told ABC. “We didn’t know what else to do.”
The altercation, which sparked outrage and calls for the state attorney general to investigate, happened as 19-year-old Brian Anderson and his friends were walking along the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, on Saturday, June 12. Police told Anderson, who was vaping, that it was a violation of a local ordinance to do so outside of designated areas, but Anderson allegedly continued to vape as he and his friends walked away. The encounter with police that followed after officers approached the group over the vaping violation a second time became chaotic.
Anderson allegedly refused to identify himself to officers, then became disorderly as officers placed him under arrest for failure to provide ID. He was charged with disorderly conduct, resistance and interference with arrest, second-degree assault and failure to provide proof of identity.
Anderson’s arrest was caught on video and shows an officer kneeing him repeatedly as the teen is pinned to the ground under multiple officers. The crowd became increasingly agitated by the use of force, and several of Anderson’s friends, including Day, 18-year-old Jahtique Joseph John Lewis, and 19-year-old Khalil Dwayne Warren, were arrested for charges including disorderly conduct, obstructing and hindering, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, resistance and interference with arrest, second-degree assault after a scuffle broke out.
All four men were released after being seen by a Maryland District Court Commissioner.
Another friend, Gage Patterson, who was not listed on the arrest report but was tased during the incident told local outlet WBALTV that he “prayed” for their lives.
“I just prayed,” Patterson said.
Anderson added, “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.”
Day said he and is friends were trying to step in after an officer kneed Anderson in order to “help him in any way.”
Lewis, who is accused of throwing a bike at a public safety aide, said the bike had been thrown at him before he attempted to toss it aside.
Saturday’s altercation was not the first time this month the Ocean City police used force against a Black teenager after making contact about vaping on the boardwalk.
Another video taken on June 6 shows 18-year-old Taizier Griffin being hit with a Taser while standing with his hands raised in the air. According to Griffin’s mother, he was in Ocean City with friends for senior week and had been vaping when an officer told him it wasn’t allowed. Griffin allegedly put the vape away and continued walking, but when an officer tried to grab his arm he pulled away before the Taser was deployed.
Griffin’s mother and bystanders on the scene said the teen was hogtied as he was carried away by authorities. He was charged with second-degree assault.
The usual consequence for violating the local vaping ordinance is a ticket and a fine for up to $100.
Amid the controversy, the Ocean City Police Department said in a statement, “While the use of force is never the intended outcome, our police department’s first priority is to protect and serve. They do not target based on race or age.”
Both the Maryland ACLU and the NAACP Maryland State Conference have called for the incidents to be thoroughly investigated.
“The NAACP Maryland State Conference demands a thorough investigation into the matter of this attack on a tourist that starts with a review of all camera footage and background of the aggressive officer who kicked and detained a teenager who was facedown on the ground during the assault,” a statement said. “Additionally, we demand that all officers are removed from their posts until this investigation is completed.”
Attorney General Brian Frosh said he is aware of the incident and has been in contact with the law enforcement agencies involved.
Mayor Richard Meehan announced that police internal affairs is investigating both incidents.