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Maryland NAACP, community leaders call for suspension of Ocean City officers over videos of violent arrests

The Maryland NAACP called Wednesday for the suspension and independent investigation of Ocean City police officers involved in the violent arrests this month of five Black teens vaping on the boardwalk. The arrests were captured on video and drew national attention and local concern about police conduct.

The videos depict separate incidents — the arrest of one 18-year-old on June 6 and of four teens on June 13, in which officers confront them for vaping outside of designated areas. The June 6 video shows the teen holding his hands in the air while he is shot with a Taser. In the June 13 video, a 19-year-old is repeatedly kneed by an officer as a group of officers hold him face down on the ground.

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A poster shows Ocean City Police, top, and Anne Arundel County police in Odenton during controversial police encounters. Siblings Zaelyn Drake, 12, M.J. Armour, 6, and Nevaeh Armour, 8, from Fayetteville, NC, who are visiting family in Anne Arundel County, hold a Black Lives Matter banner. Behind them from left to right are Cynthia Fikes, president of Columbia Democratic Club; The Rev. Marguerite Morris of For Kathy's Sake Inc.; and state Del. J. Sandy Bartlett (D-32) during a press conference in Annapolis.
A poster shows Ocean City Police, top, and Anne Arundel County police in Odenton during controversial police encounters. Siblings Zaelyn Drake, 12, M.J. Armour, 6, and Nevaeh Armour, 8, from Fayetteville, NC, who are visiting family in Anne Arundel County, hold a Black Lives Matter banner. Behind them from left to right are Cynthia Fikes, president of Columbia Democratic Club; The Rev. Marguerite Morris of For Kathy's Sake Inc.; and state Del. J. Sandy Bartlett (D-32) during a press conference in Annapolis. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

During a Wednesday news conference outside the statehouse in Annapolis, NAACP Maryland State Conference President Willie Flowers said the videos of the arrests, including images of an officer kneeing 19-year-old Brian Anderson, demonstrate excessive use of force and need to be investigated.

Ocean City Police did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

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“You have to come to the conclusion that people don’t care about Black African people,” Flowers said of the videos. “It’s an insult to anybody who has paid any ounce of taxes in Maryland.”

Ivory Smith, president of the Worcester County chapter of the NAACP, said a third-party investigation is needed, as well as improved de-escalation training for officers. The Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus also released a statement calling for an independent investigation and for the involved officers to be suspended in the interim.

During the June 13 arrest of Anderson, bystanders can be heard shouting at officers in the background of a video posted to social media. Three other Black teenagers, Kamere Day, 19, Khalil Warren, 19, and Jahtique John Lewis, 18, also were taken into custody, one of whom officers shot with a Taser. Police said the four teens resisted arrest and yelled obscenities at the arresting officers. Police said they were charged with resisting arrest, among other offenses. All four teenagers were from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Ocean City police have not publicly identified the officers so far, but court records show Ocean City police Officer Nathan Jupiter was the charging officer for Anderson, Officer Patrick McElfish charged Warren and Officer T. Stoltzfus was the charging officer for day. The charging officer for Lewis is not known. Stoltzfus did not include his first name in charging documents.

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Flowers said the fact the young men who were arrested were tourists gives community members an opportunity to pressure for change.

“If Ocean City doesn’t want the money of young Black men, don’t give them your money,” Flowers said. “That video was a message to boycott Ocean City.”

Carl Snowden, convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders, said the assertion that the men were not complying with officers’ orders did not justify their actions.

“This isn’t an issue of people not complying with the law,” Snowden said. “Too many people have died who have complied.”

Snowden said Black leadership in Maryland is more united than ever to combat incidents like those in Ocean City.

“If you put your hand on the hornet, the whole nest comes at you,” Snowden said.

Ocean City Police said in a previous statement that any use of force by officers would be subject to review by the department.

“Our officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance,” the statement said. “All uses of force go through a detailed review process. The uses of force from these arrests will go through a multilevel examination by the Assistant Patrol Commander, the Division Commander and then by the Office of Professional Standards.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Phil Davis contributed to this article

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