In the recording, uploaded to Twitter on Saturday afternoon, a police officer can be seen on top of a young African-American, punching him in the face and then using what appears to be a stun gun. The struggle is caught on camera by a passing motorist, who uploaded the clip and brought it to the attention of two prominent Black Lives Matter activists, DeRay McKesson and Shaun King. Thousands of people retweeted the clip, often using the hashtag #JusticeforVonte.
The witness, who tweets as ‘yungthugrat,’ told the local media that the officer’s behavior was brutal and uncalled for. He identified himself only as Prince, a 22-year-old African-American graduate of the University of Maryland.
Deputy Chief Hank Stawinski, of Prince George’s County Police, defended the officer’s actions.
“The individual would not yield, would not comply and unfortunately force had to be used, but it was used in a measurable way to gain control,” Stawinski told WUSA. “There’s a one-dimensional picture of this officer being painted across this country that doesn’t represent who he is, and doesn’t represent who we are.”
PG County Police identified the man activists called “Vonte,” as Giovanti Moschino Young, 21. They say he was arrested earlier in the day during a traffic stop in Laurel, Maryland, and that the Twitter video shows an officer trying to subdue Young after he attempted to escape police custody later in the day.
Young was a passenger in a car that was pulled over after rolling through a stop sign, the police said. After smelling marijuana, four officers on the scene decided to arrest the occupants. While the driver went along quietly, Young, the passenger, fought back and yelled obscenities at the officers. He was wrestled to the ground by two officers, who eventually overpowered him. The altercation was captured on the police cruiser’s dashboard camera. Deputy Chief Stawinski shared the footage with reporters on Sunday.
Young was then taken to the hospital, claiming he was injured. Stawinski noted that no injuries were found following an examination. According to the deputy chief, Young escaped from the police cruiser on the way from the hospital to the county jail at around 5 pm. He bit and kicked the officer who tried to stop him, until he was stunned with a Taser.
It was at this point that Prince drove by and recorded the struggle, commenting: “You’re about to go viral, sir.”
Another person appears to have filmed the original traffic stop. A short clip posted on Twitter by an activist shows the handcuffed Young being lifted off the ground and led into a police car, still yelling at the officers.
Following the release of the police dashcam footage, the furor over Young’s second arrest appears to have abated somewhat.
Young had two outstanding arrest warrants, including one for robbery in nearby Howard County. Police suggested this might explain why he tried to escape.
While the PG County Police are conducting an investigation into both incidents, local media report that it is unlikely any of the officers will be disciplined. The officer in the Twitter video has been on the force for 10 years and is a respected Navy veteran, Stawinski told WUSA. He was treated at an area hospital for a bite on his arm and multiple scratches.