Trial begins for first of four teenagers whose arrests in Ocean City were caught on video, sparking outrage against police

A cellphone video part of the encounter, and shows officers holding one man down on the ground, and then one kneeing the man several times.

Friends of a Black teenager whose on-camera arrest in June spawned allegations of abuse against Ocean City police said in court Monday that the officers gave their friend little time to respond to their directions before using a taser on the teen who had raised his hands in submission.

The testimony contradicted assertions by Ocean City police and kicked off the first of potentially four trials of teenagers arrested on the boardwalk.


After the final witness, the Worcester County District Court judge overseeing the case postponed the trial until January, when prosecutors and defense attorneys will give closing arguments.

Monday’s testimony opened the trial of Taizier Griffin, now 19, who faces a variety of charges related to the June 6 incident. Police say Griffin was illegally vaping on the boardwalk and that he pushed through an officer who tried to stop him and didn’t comply with orders from officers.


But a video surfaced online showing that Griffin had raised his hands while white officers shout commands. When the Black teen reaches for his backpack strap, one cop fires a Taser at him. Griffin falls; he’s handcuffed on the ground and carried off.

While officers Corwin Vincent and Joseph Laughlin described their interactions with Griffin as tense with a need to control an escalating situation with a large crowd, the woman who recorded one of the videos testified that Griffin wasn’t a threat and that officers are not telling the truth about how they initially approached him.

Cori Ewing, an 18-year-old who recorded the video and said she’s been good friends with Griffin for two years, said that Vincent grabbed Griffin’s arm, but that Griffin shrugged it away not knowing who was grabbing him.

“Someone comes up and grabs up, you’re going to jump,” she said.

Seconds after Griffin began walking away, she said, several other officers then approached the group and began shouting at Griffin to take off his backpack and lay on the ground.

“There wasn’t much time in between,” she said. “There were so many commands going at once. It was ‘Take your bag off. Lay on the ground. Get on the ground.’”

The video shows Griffin begin to motion toward his backpack before he’s tased. Ewing said Griffin was trying to slide his backpack off of his one arm in an attempt to comply with officers’ commands.

Police say an eventual search of the bag after Griffin was arrested revealed he had a “fixed blade knife” inside.

When asked by attorney William Murphy whether police were being truthful in their accounts of the incident, Ewing simply responded “not at all.”

Griffin is one of three teens being represented by the Murphy, Falcon & Murphy law firm, which won a $6.4 million settlement for the family of Freddie Gray. State Sen. Jill Carter, a Democrat, also was on the defense team Monday.

Vincent, who initially stopped Griffin for the alleged vaping violation, testified that he first extended his arm in front of Griffin’s path in an attempt to stop him. He said that Griffin pushed through his arm and, once he grabbed Griffin’s collar, Griffin began threatening police and not complying with orders.

Vincent said both he and Laughlin pointed their tasers at Griffin because he was not complying as the crowd grew and Griffin became increasingly restless. Laughlin fired his taser before officers handcuffed and arrested Griffin.

When asked by defense attorney Malcolm Ruff whether he’d properly assessed the threat and responded appropriately, Vincent testified that it was a “rapidly evolving situation” and, because he considered pushing an officer away equivalent to second-degree assault, one that needed to be handled effectively.

“I thought he was still capable of committing another crime against us,” Vincent said.

Laughlin backed up Vincent’s account, saying he arrived on the scene just after Vincent and saw Griffin push the officer’s hand away before the tense exchange.

“The way he pushed through, it wasn’t just a blind person who didn’t see,” Laughlin said.

But, under questioning by Ruff, the two officers also contradicted each other on which action would be considered more dangerous: Griffin’s alleged pushing of Vincent or Laughlin’s tasing of Griffin.

Vincent contended that “walking through the arm is more dangerous.”

Ruff tried making the point that the threat Griffin presented did not warrant officers’ escalated response, but Vincent held firm that Griffin still remained a threat to officers.

Laughlin, however, conceded that the taser could cause far greater injury, even death, and is more dangerous than pushing through someone’s arm.

Griffin’s younger brother Taydin and two friends Jasean Miranda and Jaimere Guy testified that they agreed with Ewing’s account of the incident.

Defense attorneys also argued that the city’s ordinance on vaping does not require that someone provide an identification card, only that they identify who they are, and that police have improperly charged Griffin with failure to produce proper identification.

Judge W. Newton Jackson will weigh the officers’ accounts against witness testimony and video of the incident after hearing closing arguments in January.

Attorneys from the Murphy firm have notified the town of Ocean City of their intent to sue, alleging the arrests reveal a pattern of unreasonable force by Ocean City police.

NAACP leaders in Maryland also have come to the defense of the teens and called for investigations into the actions of the officers and the department. Cellphone videos of the arrests ignited a firestorm of criticism against the Ocean City Police Department.

Public outcry followed and Ocean City police issued a statement defending the officers. They allege Griffin yelled at police, threatened to kill them, spit on them and resisted arrest, none of which happens in the minute-long video clip.

Officers charged him with eight counts including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, second-degree assault and carrying a concealed weapon.

Six days after Griffin’s arrest, officers confronted a group of teens for allegedly vaping on the boardwalk. Again, the cellphone video doesn’t show the initial moments. Footage begins with Brian Anderson, who is Black, on the ground beneath four or five white officers.

“Show me your hands!” one shouts. “Stop resisting!”

“I’m not resisting!” the teen yells. “Can you tell me what you arresting me for?”

One officer rears back and drives his knee into Anderson’s side, repeatedly. That angers onlookers, and the crowd closes in, shouting at the officers. Three other young men are arrested in the scrum.

According to the police account, officers warned Anderson to stop vaping, but he persisted. They charged him with four counts, including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and second-degree assault.

His trial has been postponed until January.


The arrests came as officers clamped down on offenses from fighting to smoking on the boardwalk this year. Police toughened up enforcement after a rash of violence on the boardwalk in the spring of 2020 drew widespread concern. Ocean City Police reported more than 1,000 calls for disorderly conduct in June 2020, a 50% increase over the previous year.


Since then, the number of citations officers officers issued for smoking on the boardwalk have jumped. Ocean City police reported issuing 41 citations for smoking on the boardwalk in June 2019. In June 2020, they issued 241 citations; in June 2021, more than 400.

Reporter Tim Prudente contributed to this article.