Lancaster, PA – A Lancaster man, who was tased by police after he allegedly attempted to fight with several individuals, has filed a lawsuit against the Lancaster Police Department and the officer involved in his arrest (video below).
In the lawsuit, 27-year-old Sean D. Williams alleged that he has been suffering from “crippling anxiety” since he was “racially profiled” by Lancaster Police Officer Philip Bernot.
Williams further asserted that Officer Bernot used “excessive force” when he deployed his “Taser gun without any justification” during the “shockingly violent” encounter, according to the lawsuit.
The incident occurred at 10:16 a.m. on June 28, after police received a 911 call reporting that “a male with a bat” was chasing several individuals in the area of South Prince Street and West Mifflin Street, the Lancaster Police Department said in a statement.
Lancaster Police Officer Shannon Mazzante responded to the scene of the disturbance and observed three individuals telling Williams to “get away from them,” police said.
Officer Mazzante repeatedly instructed Williams to sit down, but he refused and kept telling one of the females in the group that he wanted her to give him his Social Security card.
The officer issued commands for Williams to sit down for approximately two more minutes, at which point Officer Bernot arrived to assist.
In a cell phone video recorded by bystander Juan Almestica, Williams was seen standing on the edge of a curb as Officer Bernot spoke to him with his Taser drawn.
It was unclear how long Officer Bernot had been at the scene prior to the start of the recording.
“Sit down or you’re getting tased,” he told Williams in the video.
After Williams slowly lowered himself down onto the curb, Officer Bernot repeatedly instructed him to put his “legs straight out.”
Williams inched his feet forward ever so slightly, but kept his legs bent.
“Straight out,” Officer Bernot said again, just as Williams quickly slid his right foot back towards the curb and underneath himself.
“Hey!” Officer Bernot said while he moved to a position behind Williams. “Legs straight out, or you’re getting tased.”
Williams slid his feet forward once again but ignored the officer’s commands to straighten them.
“This [tactic] is done as a measure of control to [ensure] that if someone is going to flee or offer physical resistance, they will have to move their legs under them to do so,” the police department’s statement read. “Non-compliance is often a precursor to someone that is preparing to flee or fight with Officers.”
“Put your legs straight out, and cross them now,” Officer Mazzante directed Williams in the video.
Williams again slid his heels quickly back underneath him, at which point Officer Bernot deployed his Taser, hitting Williams in the back.
The defiant man flailed on the ground for a moment before he tried to sit back up.
“On your stomach, on your stomach,” Officer Bernot ordered. “Arms out like an airplane.”
Williams repeatedly attempted to crane his neck to see the officers standing behind him, but remained on the ground and was arrested without further incident.
The individuals Williams had allegedly been trying to fight with told police that Williams had displayed “increasing erratic behavior” during the days prior to the disturbance, according to the police department’s statement.
They said that Williams had wanted to fight with them earlier in the day but that he ended up backing down because he was wearing flip flops.
He later returned wearing sneakers and wanted to fight the group yet again, they told police.
At that point, someone uninvolved in the incident called 911. The individuals involved in the altercation said they never saw Williams with a bat, and investigators did not locate a bat at the scene.
Williams was arrested on outstanding warrants for possession of a controlled substance and public drunkenness, police said.
In the lawsuit, Williams sued Officer Bernot “individually and in his official capacity,” according to court documents.
Williams claimed he was “confused and surprised” by the officers’ commands that he sit down because he “had not done anything wrong,” the lawsuit said.
He said that he ultimately “complied without resistance” because he didn’t want to “cause any trouble,” the lawsuit read.
Williams said he was in “extreme pain” during and after his arrest, and that he was “not offered” medical attention “or even a drink of water,” according to the suit.
Since the incident, Williams has continued to “suffer severe head, neck, shoulder and head pain” due to having been tased by Officer Bernot, and was also experiencing “substantial shame, embarrassment, [and] mental” suffering, the document continued.
According to police, Williams was assessed and cleared by emergency medical personnel at the station "as is protocol with every use of an [electronic control device]."
Williams is seeking a judgement “in excess” of $75,000.
You can watch the viral recording of Williams' arrest in the video below.