(LANCASTER, Pa.) — A Pennsylvania man who was videotaped being tasered by police while sitting on a curb is suing the department for use of excessive force.
Attorneys for Sean Williams, 27, filed a lawsuit Monday against the Lancaster Police Department and the officer who fired the Taser, Phillip Bernot, seeking more than $75,000. The lawsuit also claims Williams was racially profiled by police when he was shot with a Taser gun on June 28.
According to the lawsuit, Williams “has suffered and continues to suffer severe head, neck, shoulder and head pain” as well as “crippling anxiety” and “substantial shame, embarrassment, mental and physical suffering” as a result of the June 28 incident.
ABC News’ request for comment from the police department about the lawsuit were not immediately returned.
The altercation gained national attention after a bystander’s video of the incident was widely shared online.
The officers can be heard repeatedly directing Williams to put his legs “straight out” in front of him.
“Legs straight out or you’re getting tased,” a male officer standing behind Williams says in the video with his Taser drawn.
“Put your legs straight out and cross them now,” a female officer yells.
Williams can be seen straightening his legs but then folds them back again. That’s when the male officer fires his Taser.
According to the lawsuit, Williams was simply following instructions.
The police account of what happened
According to the police report, the encounter with Williams stemmed from a 911 call authorities received on Thursday morning reporting that a man “with a bat” went after a group of three other persons.
Lancaster Police officer Shannon Mazzante responded to the call and came across a group of three individuals “telling a male to get away from them,” the report said.
Mazzante told the man, identified by police as Williams, to sit down “several times” but he didn’t comply. Williams wouldn’t leave a woman in the group alone and “kept repeating that he wanted a specific item, his Social Security card, from her,” according to the report. Bernot arrived on the scene soon after and warned Williams that a Taser would be used if he didn’t listen to their orders.
“Williams was instructed to stick his legs straight out in front of him and to cross his ankles. This 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. Noncompliance is often a precursor to someone that is preparing to flee or fight with officers,” the report said.
The report said Bernot deployed the Taser after Williams “failed to follow instructions.” Williams was then taken into custody “without further incident or use of force,” according to the report.
The group that had been apparently telling Williams to get away told police that they knew him and he “had been exhibiting increasing erratic behavior over the previous few days.” They said Williams had been outside a residence earlier and wanted to fight with them. But the group said they did not see Williams with a bat, and no bat was found at the scene, the report said.
A protest was held in front of a local courthouse on June 29, the day after the incident occurred.
Williams attended the protest but declined to speak to reporters on camera.
The mayor of Lancaster said Friday that the investigation into the incident is underway.
“Like you, when I saw the video I was upset by it and it is of great concern to me,” Mayor Danene Sorace said Friday in a video posted to her Facebook page. “We take the use of force very seriously. There is an investigation that has already commenced.”
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