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Following Viral Video and Protests, Attorney Questions Police Use of Force in Arrests of Black Brothers in Rock Hill

Ricky and travis.jpg
Photos provided by York County Sheriff's Office and captured from a video posted on Facebook.
Ricky Price, left, and his brother, Travis, were charged following a traffic stop in Rock Hill Wednesday. A viral video, center screencap, ignited protests and clashes with city police almost immediately after the video was posted to Facebook. The backlash centers around the use of force, which protesters say was excessive and racially motivated. Police say Ricky Price struck them and tried to run from the scene before officers wrestled him to the ground.

A video gone viral shows the arrest Wednesday of two Black men in Rock Hill.

The video, originally posted to Facebook, shows Ricky and Travis Price, brothers, being arrested at a gas station.

But the arrest involved taking both brothers to the ground by multiple white officers, an act that sparked protests in the streets of Rock Hill into Wednesday night. Those protests involved clashes with police officers carrying shields and wearing riot gear, as well as a grassfire set by protesters, according to Justin Bamberg, attorney for the Price family at a press conference in York Thursday.

Norma Gray, president of Rock Hill’s NAACP chapter, said those protesters who clashed with police and set the fire were not Rock Hill residents, but rather protesters from out of town who came to the city to join otherwise peaceful protesters.

The arrests of the Price brothers occurred after a traffic stop and search. Rock Hill police said in a statement that officers pulled Ricky Price over because he “made an illegal turn and changed lanes unlawfully.”

A police dog, seen in the video, sniffed the car and police say officers found marijuana and crack cocaine in the car. According to police, Travis Price walked over to the site to collect items belonging to his brother. From there the situation escalated quickly.

The video shows Ricky Price yelling at officers, quickly followed by officers wrestling Travis Price to the ground. Ricky Price was soon after taken to the ground as well. The video shows officers punch him at least four times in the leg.

In their statement, police say Ricky Price punched an officer in the face while being searched, then tried to run.

Bamberg questions that statement, saying the time between the moment of the alleged punch thrown by Ricky Price and the moment officers begin to wrestle him to the ground are several moments apart.

The video shows Price sit up with a bloodied face. His mugshot shows a wound on his nose.

On Thursday, Bamberg said the use of force during the arrests was excessive and that his clients should be thought of as innocent until and unless a criminal court says otherwise.

“[Ricky] has been charged and that will play out in court,” Bamberg said. “He will have his day in court. The level of force used, that’s the problem here.”

Bamberg questioned “What kind of law enforcement do we want” in Rock Hill and in the United States. He cited what he called an imbalance in how Black suspects are handled by police officers versus white ones.

“It’s not 1960 anymore,” he said. “And these are the things people are frustrated about.”

Ricky Price was charged with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and marijuana, carrying a pistol unlawfully, unlawful possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a violent offense, and resisting arrest.

Travis Price was charged with hindering police.

Rock Hill Police say they are conducting an internal investigation in the matter and that “at no time was the police K-9 used to bite Travis or Ricky. Officers did not deploy any weapons or use Tasers on Travis or Ricky.”

Gray says the NAACP of Rock hill is reviewing the materials of the case.

· A link to the video recorded by a bystander is here (with a content warning).

· The full text of the Rock Hill Police Department’s statement on the Price arrests, originally published in the Rock Hill herald, follows:

On June 23, 2021, Officers of the Rock Hill Police Department Violent Crimes Unit were joined by the Department of Homeland Security to conduct operations in Rock Hill targeting violent and narcotic dealing offenders. Officers were conducting surveillance when at 1:56 p.m. they located and observed Ricky Roderick Price, a known offender, driving a black 2017 Mustang on Dave Lyle Blvd. Price made an illegal turn and changed lanes unlawfully, subsequently being stopped by Officers.

Price pulled the Mustang into the gas station at 329 Willowbrook Avenue and began moving about the vehicle out of officer’s view. As Officers approached the vehicle, Price was talking on his cell phone telling his brother where he was stopped by officers. Based on prior interactions with Price, officers called for K-9 to conduct a vehicle sniff. K-9 alerted to the presence of illegal narcotics in the vehicle. Price was asked to step from the vehicle while officers conducted a search.

During the search, Officers located two bags of Marijuana hidden in the driver’s door panel. Officers then placed Price under arrest and into handcuffs. Officers also located a 9mm pistol in the back seat of the vehicle.

Officers began searching Price when his brother, Travis Price, arrived on scene and approached Officers. Travis Price attempted to gather the belongings Officers were removing from Ricky’s person and was told to move back. Travis then used his body to bump the Officers backward as he continued trying to get near his brother to reach for the belongings while yelling belligerently. Travis was forced back and told he was under arrest for interfering, and physically contacting officers. Travis shoved Officers, refusing to comply with orders to place his hands behind his back. Officers pushed Travis against a large tank located behind him, telling him to put his hands behind his back. Travis continued his non-compliance and Officers began struggling with Travis. While attempting to gain control of Travis, Officers and Travis went to the ground.

During this time, other Officers collected jewelry from Ricky since he requested his jewelry be passed along to someone else on scene. Officers were attempting to facilitate his request and removed Ricky’s handcuffs to collect more jewelry. Once Officers removed the handcuffs, Ricky attempted to flee and threw several punches. One of the punches struck an officer in the face.

The police K-9 was deployed as a display of force to gain compliance, with the handler maintaining control of the K-9; however, Ricky continued fighting to escape from Officers.

As Officers struggled to maintain control of Ricky, he and several Officers fell to the ground in the parking lot. As Officers were on the ground with Ricky, one Officer delivered several punches to Ricky’s upper thigh on the Common Peroneal Nerve to gain compliance. The strikes had no effect and Ricky continued to resist. The officer then punched again, striking Ricky in the nose which caused him to bleed.

Officers were able to take Ricky into custody at this time while other Officers managed to handcuff Travis as well.

Officers rendered aid following the punch and EMS was called to respond; however, Officers placed Ricky in a patrol vehicle to meet EMS at the Law Center. EMS transported Ricky to Piedmont Medical Center for treatment. Upon removing Ricky from the vehicle, Officers found a Crown Royal bag containing crack cocaine where he was seated.

Travis was placed into a patrol vehicle and taken to the Rock Hill City Jail.

Ricky Price was charged with Possession with intent to Distribute Crack Cocaine, Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, Carrying a Pistol Unlawfully, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Person Convicted of a Violent Offense, and Resisting Arrest.

Travis Price was charged with Hindering Police.

At no time was the police K-9 used to bite Travis or Ricky. Officers did not deploy any weapons or use Tasers on Travis or Ricky.

An Internal Review of the incident is being conducted.