A 19-year-old Pennsylvania man who repeatedly was kneed by police on the Ocean City, Maryland, boardwalk said he prayed for protection during the confrontation caught on camera.
“I just asked God to give me the strength,” Brian Anderson said.
“Guide me and protect me so that this officer doesn’t make this my last day here,” he said.
As he recovers at home in Pennsylvania, Anderson said he still doesn’t understand how violating Ocean City’s vaping ban escalated.
He says he and his friends complied when officers told them to stop vaping on the boardwalk Saturday.
“I put the vape away, and we started walking, and they’re still following me,” Anderson said.
Ocean City police say Anderson began vaping again. When officers asked for his ID, he refused, for which violators can be arrested.
Anderson says he tried to walk away as officers surrounded him.
“Next thing I know, I’m just on the ground getting kneed in my ribcage,” he said.
The confrontation is one of two captured on video recently that have prompted calls from officials around the state for police to investigate and reevaluate their use of force in such situations. The second confrontation with police happened June 6 when officers approached another Black teen about vaping. Video shows the teen with his hands up, but as one hand drops toward his backpack, an officer Tases him. Officers later carried him away with his hands and feet bound.
In a tweet, Democratic House Speaker Adrienne Jones called the video “deeply disturbing."
“Vaping on the Boardwalk is not a criminal offense,” she said. “Vaping should not yield a hog tie.”
But some Eastern Shore lawmakers, including Delegate Wayne Hartman, have defended the officers. Hartman, a Republican, told The Daily Times that the videos don't show the whole story and the town council asks officers to strictly enforce ordinances to keep behavior on the boardwalk under control.
“To make a decision from just seeing a video I think is unfortunate,” Hartman said. “I know that both of these cases are very active investigations, and they’re going to be looked at very closely, but to make a decision to say that someone overreacted I think is very premature at this point.”
Mayor Rick Meehan pledged a thorough and transparent investigation and urged the public not to jump to conclusions.
“I hope that when all the video is out there, we have a better understanding of really what occurred,” he said. “I’m glad nobody got hurt in any of these situations.”
“Somebody did get hurt, and it’s the entire community that got hurt,” said Willie Flowers, president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference.
Flowers was stunned by the mayor’s statement. He called the incidents the worst public relations disaster in Ocean City’s history and wants an outside agency to investigate.
Regardless of the outcome, he believes something positive can come of this.
“Build from there, and it’s an opportunity to bring everybody together,” Flowers said.
Speaking Tuesday afternoon, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called the video disturbing but stopped short of assigning blame.
“We’re just anxious to get the initial investigation conducted so we can have all the facts before making further statements about it,” he said.
The friends said they had traveled to Ocean City to celebrate senior week, and Anderson said he’s not sure they did anything that led to the violent outcome.
“I could’ve been fully cooperative with them and I still could have ended up on that ground being kneed,” he said.
Maryland State Police offered to assist in the investigation, but Ocean City police has not asked for help.
Maryland's NAACP chapter will address the issue Wednesday in Annapolis.