Metro Transit Police have launched an internal investigation after video of an officer using his Taser on an unarmed man who was trying to de-escalate an incident with police at the U Street Metro station in Washington, D.C.
The incident unfolded just before 6 p.m. Saturday when officers were called to investigate reports of “disorderly” teens threatening riders with sticks on the platform, according to a police report. Officers detained multiple youths who were pointed out by witnesses, including two who allegedly tried to flee the scene.
After failing to locate any victims, however, police released the teenagers into the custody of their parents and guardians.
During their investigation, officers said an adult male who wasn’t involved in the initial incident started “interfering with the police investigation” and “exhibited behavior consistent with preparing to fight the officer,” one cop wrote in his report.
The man ignored officers’ commands to get back, police said, prompting one of the officers to deploy his stun gun. The man was later taken into custody.
According to police, neither the officer or the subject were injured.
Footage of the incident posted to social media by Black Lives Matter DC sparked immediate backlash, as it painted a much different picture of the incident. On Sunday, Metro Police said they were opening an investigation into the incident to determine if the officer’s use of force was warranted.
“Based on concerns raised on social media regarding the officer’s handling of the interaction, as well as the appropriateness of the use of force, the Metro Transit Police Department has initiated an investigation into the matter,” the statement read.
The department added that it would “review all available facts and evidence,” including witness statements and video posted online.
In the video, a man is seen calmly talking with officers from the opposite side of a train station bench. He places his hands on the shoulder of one of the teens, who was sitting down facing the officers.
All is well until one of the cops comes from around the bench and shoves the man, ordering him to get away. The officer then pulls out his taser and forcefully shoves the man once more. A scuffle ensues.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” bystander Che’mere Jones shouts. “He’s all right, he’s all right.” Jones, who shot the video on her cellphone, is also heard pleading with officers to “chill” and “take it easy” on the unnamed man.
At one point, she screams at the man to “just get down!” as officers prepare to shock him. It’s unclear how many times he was tasered, but witnesses claim it was at least seven times.
Jones told WTOP the incident left her feeling frightened.
“I was scared, I was ashamed and I was frustrated,” she said. “There were seven officers around him and more coming down the escalator.”
She also rebutted the officer’s claim that the man appeared to be “preparing to fight.”
“Hold your brothers in blue accountable,” Jones said, directing her anger at police, who she said put everyone on that platform in danger that day.
“Not once did you offer any sense of security to anybody on that platform,” she added. “This isn’t just an officer making a mistake. It’s a culture.”
Kegan Queen, who witnessed the incident, also disagreed with the officers’ handling of the situation. He told WUSA 9 that the officer pushed the man and was “barking orders” rather than de-escalating the incident. For that, Queen said, he should be fired.
“The idea that this is the fault of anyone except for that officer is blatantly untrue,” Queen told the station. “The man who was tasered had been complying with the orders of the other two officers on the scene already, before the new officer came sprinting down the stairs barking orders.”
Queen said the victim was playing “peacekeeper” between officers on scene and the few teens who hadn’t been informally arrested.
As of Sunday, the officer in question remains on full-duty status, according to Metro Police. It’s unclear what disciplinary action, if any, will be taken, pending the investigation.
Metro PD didn’t respond to Atlanta Black Star’s request for comment.
Photo Credit: NBC4