Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace said an investigation is underway into a Thursday incident in which a city police officer used a Taser on a suspect who was sitting on a curb.
Sorace issued her statement after a bystander’s video of the incident, which showed the officer deploying the Taser into the suspect’s back, went viral on social media.
“Like you, when I saw the video I was upset by it and it is of great concern to me. We take the use of force very seriously,” Sorace said.
According to the Lancaster Bureau of Police, officers responded to a disturbance on the first block of South Prince Street after a caller told emergency dispatchers that a male went after a group of three people with a bat.
Officer Shannon Mazzante arrived on the scene just after 10 a.m. and repeatedly told the male — later identified as Sean Williams, 27 — to sit down on the sidewalk, but Williams did not comply, police said.
About two minutes later, Officer Philip Bernot arrived to assist Mazzante. Bernot, police said, warned Williams that if he continued to refuse directions, a Taser would be used on him. Williams then sat on the curb, facing the street.
A Facebook video that quickly drew more than 115,000 views and 3,600 shares shows Williams on the curb, being directed to stick his legs straight out in front of him. Bernot directed Williams to do this at least seven times, the video shows, before Mazzante shouted, “Legs straight out and cross them now."
Williams then brings his legs closer to his body, the video shows. Bernot then uses his Taser on Williams, who is then laid onto the pavement and taken into custody.
“Non-compliance is often a precursor to someone that is preparing to flee or fight with Officers," police said in a statement.
Lancaster police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser did not respond to a request for comment. But the police statement said that, “All use of force incidents, like this one, are reviewed by the Use of Force training cadre and Command Staff.”
The Lancaster County district attorney's office said in a statement on Twitter Friday, "We are aware of (the Taser incident in Lancaster city), and have seen the video. The proper procedures are ongoing."
Spokesman Brett Hambright said Friday afternoon that the office has been in contact with the police department and is "closely monitoring the situation."
"We will take appropriate actions when the (internal police) investigation is complete, based on all the facts," he said.
Sorace issued her statement in the form of a video posted to the city’s Facebook page. She said the incident “affirmed my resolve to implement a body camera program here in the City of Lancaster.”
Blanding Watson, president of the Lancaster NAACP, said the group is monitoring the situation and that "full understanding" of the incident "requires a full investigation."
"This event highlights the need for strengthening the accountability and trust which necessarily characterizes a productive relationship between communities and law enforcement," he said. "Such a relationship is more important than ever."
Williams, who was evaluated by medical personnel after the incident, had an outstanding criminal warrant for his arrest for charges of possession of a controlled substance and public drunkenness, police said. They said they found no bat at the scene.
Williams was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Jodie Richardson and released on unsecured $5,000 bail.