Fairfax County Police are defending an officer's use of a Taser on a man who allegedly stole a pair of sunglasses from a bank in Alexandria, Virginia -- an incident caught on video.
Elton Cansler, 35, was shocked with the device by an officer about 2 p.m. Thursday on the 6000 block of Rose Hill Drive in an incident that alarmed many viewers who saw video of the incident.
Cansler was reported to have walked into a SunTrust Bank in the Rose Hill shopping center, stolen a worker's sunglasses and then walked out. Officers who spoke with Cansler said he repeatedly reached into his pockets, where he was found to have a 6-inch knife. He then resisted arrest, police said.
"That could be deadly weapon if he was to get it," Police Chief Ed Roessler said after police released additional video footage of the incident.
The angles from which both videos were taken don't capture, Roessler said, what police saw: a man who repeatedly reached for a folding knife clipped inside his right front pants pocket.
"At the time of the deployment of the [Taser], the officer could not see where Mr. Cansler's hands were going and had reasonable fear that Mr. Cansler was reaching into his pocket for the knife," a statement by Fairfax County Police said. "The officer's discretion was appropriately used to deploy a less-lethal force, and in compliance with all policies and laws in this matter."
Cansler was charged with larceny and assaulting an officer. He was released on bond Friday.
His brother, Marco Crosby, said Cansler has cerebral palsy and was shaken by the incident. Crosby said he does not believe the use of police force was justified.
"If he had the knife in his hand, he'd have every right to Tase him. But the fact that they say it was clipped on his belt, or clipped in his pocket ... The tape clearly shows he never reached for it," Crosby said. "Where was the threat? There was no imminent threat to that officer for him to use that type of force on my brother."
The family has retained a lawyer.
Employees of the SunTrust bank told police a man who didn't work there walked through the break room and offices of the bank and swiped the manager's sunglasses off his desk. Bank security called 911 and gave a description of a black man about six feet tall, wearing a gray shirt and black cap with a gray rim. Officers were dispatched to the bank about 1:50 p.m. and arrived on the scene seven minutes later.
An officer spotted Cansler, who matched the description, and spoke with him. Cansler immediately put his hands in his pockets, police said. Asked if he stole the sunglasses, he said "yeah" and put his hands back into his pockets, according to police.
An officer then noticed the knife in Cansler's pocket. Cansler removed the sunglasses from a rear pocket and put his hand near the knife again, police say.
Cansler did not cooperate with the officer when asked to put his hands behind his back, keeping them locked stiff on the cruiser, and used his body to push back against the officer, police said. When Cansler continued to resist arrest, an officer used the Taser on him for "one five-second cycle, which caused Mr. Cansler to fall to the ground," police said.
He was cleared by a nurse and put into the custody of the sheriff's office.
The man who took the initial video told NBC4's Julie Carey he started recording because he saw the officer abruptly stop a man who appeared to be just walking down the street. He said he was surprised to see the officer use the stun gun while the suspect's hands were on the car.
Cansler is due in court Nov. 24.