It was supposed to be a weekend trip to celebrate high school graduation, but it turned into something far more traumatic. A group of eight teens from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who’d traveled three hours to the beachfront town of Ocean City, Maryland, were walking on the boardwalk Saturday evening when police approached them about the local vaping ordinance one of them was allegedly violating.
According to five of the teens who spoke exclusively to The Daily Beast, the vape was put away. But after cops kept following the teens and began requesting identification, more police arrived and a scuffle ensued that resulted in one of the teens getting tased and another kneed viciously and repeatedly in the chest while being held down by other officers, according to videos that went viral on social media.
As a crowd of people watched in shock, four of the boys were arrested.
“I’m just glad we made it out alive,” said Brian Anderson, 19, one of the teens who was kneed by an officer.
The Ocean City Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. The mayor of Ocean City, Richard Meehan, also did not respond to a request for comment.
In a news release, the department said they were aware of videos on social media related to the arrests. “Our officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance,” the release said. It added that the use of force will go through a “detailed review process.”
According to the release, officers told the group about the ordinance after seeing them vaping, but as they walked away, Anderson allegedly started vaping again. Officers approached the group again and after asking for the teen’s identification and being rebuffed, they said Anderson became “disorderly” and resisted arrest when police tried to detain him for not providing his identification and violating the local ordinance.
Anderson told The Daily Beast that he initially pulled from his vape pen because he noticed many people on the boardwalk drinking and smoking. He said the initial officers told him to stop vaping and he put his pen away. “I put it away on my own because I didn’t want to get in trouble with them,” he said. “And I still got attacked and harassed for it.”
Jahtique John Lewis, 18, said that after the teens questioned the initial officers about them following the group, he saw a crowd of more officers coming. He said the officers took “an excessive way” to make Anderson show his ID. “Next thing I know there are like six cops on top of Brian.”
In one video, four officers pile on Anderson as he’s on the ground. Officers hold his arms and shoulders to the ground as he squirms and one yells, “Stop resisting!” In response, Anderson can be heard saying, “I’m not resisting” and asks the officer to tell him what he’s being arrested for. Moments later, one of the officers cocks his leg back and knees Anderson in the side five times while yelling “give me your hands.” Onlookers groan in horror.
Anderson was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting and interfering with arrest, assault second degree, and failure to provide proof of identity, according to the Ocean City Police Department.
According to the Ocean City Police Department, John Lewis was arrested after officers and public safety aides in the area created a perimeter to “separate the aggressive and hostile crowd” from the officers making arrests. The department said Jahtique picked up a police bicycle and tried to hit a public safety aide with it and later resisted arrest. He was charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, obstructing and hindering, assault second degree, and resist/interfere with arrest.
But John Lewis said the bike was thrown at him first and he threw it back as a reaction.
His mother, Chiffon John Lewis, 41, told The Daily Beast that video footage proves that the police version of events was not described accurately. “You can clearly see in the video he did not do that,” she said. “You can clearly see what actually happened.”
She called the officers’ response for a violation so small as a vaping ordinance unnecessary. “They were picked on because they’re young and they’re Black and I guess they know they’re not from that area.”
Two other teens in the group were also arrested. Kamere Day, 19, was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing and hindering, failure to obey reasonable and lawful order, resist/interfere with arrest, and assault second-degree after allegedly refusing to comply with officers and “yelling profanities.” Khalil Warren, 19, was allegedly standing on private property during the scuffle and “became disorderly.” He was charged with trespassing-posted property and resisting arrest.
One of the teens, Gage Patterson, 19, said he was tased and arrested by police, but released with fines. Social media footage shows him being tased after police attempt to restrain his arms.
In May of last year, a similar instance of alleged excessive force played out on the boardwalk, according to reporting from DelmarvaNow. Video showed an Ocean City officer punching and putting his arm around a 20-year-old Maryland man during an arrest. According to the paper, officers had initially been arresting the man’s friend for an open container of alcohol.
Taylor Cimorosi, 20, watched the arrest from a bench and cursed at the officers, calling one a “pig,” which prompted the officer to tell him he was under arrest. The officer attempted to restrain Cimorosi and later punched him, according to video evidence. Cimorosi told DelmarvaNow the cop also put him in a chokehold.
In June 2020, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan tweeted about a “rash of violence” in Ocean City that month and linked to a CBS 13 news story that reported that Ocean City police had added more police to the boardwalk after “several violent incidents.” Videos depicted brawls and police dispersing large crowds.
John Lewis said the trip with his friends was the first time he’d ever been to Ocean City and meant to celebrate his graduation from high school last week. After the ordeal and the night in jail, he said he and his friends are trying to figure out what to do about what happened, including possibly filing complaints with the police department.
“We don’t have it figured out, but we’re working on it,” he said.