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‘It’s Sickening’: Video Shows Cop Pushing 13-Year-Old Teen’s Head Into Concrete, Arresting Him for Selling Roses In Front of a South Carolina Walmart

Videos showing the forceful arrest of a 13-year-old boy at a Walmart in South Carolina earlier this month have triggered a wave of community backlash against the officers involved in the boy’s detainment.

Summerville Police released bodycam footage from the April 1 incident showing two of their cops confronting a teenage boy who was reportedly selling palmetto roses in front of a Walmart store.

Police stated that Officers Dante Ghi and Katherine Kirkland, who worked in the police department’s hospitality division, responded to complaints that two people were loitering and selling roses at Walmart.

Bodycam footage released by Summerville Police in South Carolina show Officers Dante Ghi and Katherine Kirkland arrest a 13-year-old boy after he was seen selling palmetto roses outside of a Walmart store. Officer Ghi had used a maneuver to force the boy’s head between his legs in an attempt to subdue him. (Photos: Facebook)

When they arrived, they used the PA system in their patrol car to tell two young men to move along. When the two refused, the officers confronted them personally. Police say the 13-year-old wouldn’t identify himself. They described him as “uncooperative” and “confrontational” with the officers so they opted to detain him.

Police said the boy “resisted” detainment and pushed Ghi into a wall. Then, when Kirkland tried to secure the boy’s arm with a handcuff, the boy “struck” her in the face with a “closed fist.”

In the bodycam footage police released, viewers can see officers approach the teen, and ask for his I.D. and if he had a business license. One said, “I was going to try to be nice, but you got your I.D. on you, man?”

When the young man asks, “Why?” one officer responds, “You’re getting ready to go to jail is why.”

The boy admits to selling roses and started swearing at the officers, but never showed any aggressive or threatening behavior toward them.

That’s when Officer Ghi grabs the young man’s arm and a struggle begins in which both officers work to subdue the boy. Viewers can’t see the boy throw a punch at Kirkland, but police included a photo taken later showing a bruise under her right eye.

“What you see is (his left hand) handcuffed, and the other officer has him subdued and engaged with his right hand. It’s hard to come to the conclusion, in my mind, that there would have been time (to strike) this officer,” state Rep. Martin Pendarvis, who is representing the boy’s family, said.

Kirkland unholsters her Taser and threatens to use it against the boy while Ghi forces the boy to the ground.

Cellphone videos posted on Facebook show Ghi using his weight to forcefully push the boy’s head down between his legs as Kirkland cuffs the boy from behind. Those videos have received thousands of views and shares.

“Smh, it’s sickening,” one viewer wrote. “You know what it’s a wrong way and a right way to handle this he was already in handcuffs this doesn’t make sense,” another viewer added.

Summerville Police Lt. Shaun Tumbleston stated that Ghi went into that “grappling motion” to keep the boy “from standing up and to prevent the risk of the individual trying to escape or assault another police officer.”

Police didn’t release the teen’s name since he is a minor, but said he was charged with assaulting an officer. He was later released to a parent. The other teenager who was with him was charged with trespassing.

An incident report cited several businesses that have issued complaints about shoplifting by juveniles selling palmetto roses, according to the Post-Courier. Some peddlers who frequented the shopping area near the Walmart where the boy was arrested were issued indefinite trespass notices. The juvenile charged with trespassing was already on an active trespass notice for Walmart.

Pendarvis said his client had never been issued a notice and did not shoplift.

He said the boy sells rose-shaped flowers made with palmetto palm fronds “quite often” and he was trying to make an “honest buck” since he was on spring break that week.

“This was an overreaction. This was an escalation. There was no attempt to try to de-escalate the event from the time that they approached him,” Pendarvis said. “It’s not uncommon, whether it’s Girl Scouts or church groups or little league groups, to gather in front of storefronts, selling cookies, selling lemonade, selling whatever, to make an honest buck, to raise money for particular situations. If there were Girl Scouts set up there, would the results have been the same?”

Community Demands Accountability After Teen’s Arrest

Community members protested days after the bodycam footage and cellphone videos were posted online. Some said that Officer Ghi was too aggressive.

“It’s just very sad what young Black men face at the hands of police that should be helping them,” protester Patricia Cannon said.

“I cannot believe the Summerville Police Department hired someone with this background,” protester Denise Rock said. “Where’s police reform? The state needs to get involved and address people like Officer Ghi. He should never be a police officer again.”

According to Live 5, training documents show Ghi was fired from the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office after he pushed a man’s head against the hood of his car during an incident in 2002.

In 2018, Ghi reportedly resigned from the North Charleston Police Department before police officials finished their internal investigation involving a policy violation. Those violations were sustained. That same year, he arrested two teens at a mall for being at the mall after 6 p.m. without an adult chaperone, which violated mall policy. However, the teens did have a chaperone, but that person was shopping in another store when Ghi confronted them.

He was hired by Summerville Police more than two weeks after quitting the North Charleston force.

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