A man is suing a police department in New York state for hastily tasing him for jaywalking in the street when he claims he was trying to help a motorcyclist start his bike.
The Nassau County Police confronted 33-year-old Marc Merritt on April 22 in the hamlet of Baldwin on Long Island. Merritt says a group of officers began harassing him about jaywalking on Grand Avenue. He told them he was merely helping a friend start his motorcycle by pushing it out of a nearby lot and onto the street. They asked for his ID, but he refused.
Body camera footage captured the entire incident. The encounter began to escalate when those officers started pointing Tasers at Merritt, demanding he get on the ground. When he and a friend persisted in telling them that he was doing nothing wrong, they stun him twice.
“I just felt instant pain. I don’t remember hitting the floor. But I was tased twice,” Marc Merritt told CBS News.
Once he hit the ground, police are seen immediately handcuffed him and began rummaging through his pockets for his ID. An officer is also captured with his foot on Merritt’s back and a knee on his leg.
“I’m not a human. I feel like an animal, Tased for no reason,” Merritt said in an interview with ABC 7 New York. “I think if I had been a female or a white male trying to help someone it wouldn’t have happened, I definitely know that wouldn’t have happened.”
“Today was the first time I’ve seen the video. It’s extremely disturbing for me. It’s heartbreaking and devastating,” Merritt’s mother Denise Merritt said. “It’s hard to put into words to watch your son be Tased because he’s Black.”
ABC 7 New York interviewed witnesses who said neighbors called the police because of a disturbance outside a restaurant lounge from a large motorcycle group. Officers took Merritt into custody after he was taken to a hospital by ambulance. He spent the night cuffed in a jail cell. Not only was he charged with jaywalking, but he also faces disorderly conduct and governmental obstruction charges, as well.
“On the police report, it says it was a crime against society. Jaywalking is now a crime against society,” attorney Kenneth Mollins said. “A lot of people are asking why didn’t he just give his ID. It’s because he felt he did nothing wrong and he felt he was being accused, or being harassed merely because he was a Black man in the street, trying to help someone.”
Merritt’s suit seeks $1 million in damages for excessive and unjustified force and harassment. Nassau County Police have yet to release comment on the incident.
In a similar incident, a Black man was tased to death in Alabama after police there wrongfully pinned a burglary on him. Now, his family is demanding body camera footage be released of that killing.