Police chief: 2 officers on leave, SLED called after Rock Hill arrest ignites protest

·3 min read

Two Rock Hill police officers have been placed on administrative leave, and South Carolina’s Law Enforcement Division has begun an independent investigation into Wednesday’s arrest of two Black men. The incident was caught on Facebook Live and has since ignited protests and community discussion.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Emmett Scott Center, Rock Hill Police Chief Chris Watts told reporters the measures, among others, were made in “keeping with public trust and transparency.” He also detailed the incident from the law’s perspective, much of which was delineated in a statement issued Wednesday evening.

“We have met with local and state leaders, and we will continue to do so as we move forward,” Watts said. “The Rock Hill Police Department recognizes the pain and frustration our community feels over this incident. We want the public to know that their first amendment rights to assemble will be protected.”

Protesters were present again Thursday evening in downtown Rock Hill.

Watts told reporters that he does not support the immediate release of body cam video to the public.

“I sat down with (Rock Hill NAACP chapter president) Norma Gray and the mayor (John Gettys) and we went through the (video),” he said. “Couple things in our policy for body-worn cameras: One, we want to make sure that we’ve gotten all the witnesses who we know have seen it. … The second is to make sure that the family is OK. I have not been able to speak to the family. We always ask for permission there and let them view the video before the public.

“After that, that will obviously be considered. But we need to go through that procedure first.”

Watts said the swift resolution of this issue is a high priority.

“The quicker the better for us,” he said. “That’s why we called SLED today. I talked with Chief Mark Keel, and he had two agents up here today, which is very fast. They’re very busy also. But he saw the importance of this, and we see the importance, along with our leaders. So he complied and got two people up here quickly.

“I’m hoping we don’t have to expend a lot of resources dealing with unlawful behavior after dark.”

Watts also asked the public for more time.

“A violent instance when someone’s resisting is not pretty. It’s ugly,” he said. “There’s no way to make it look good. So we have to make sure: ‘What was the intent? (What) was the officer thinking at that time? Why did he have to use that particular technique?’ And that’s what we’re trying to work through.”

The video posted on social media shows police officers and two Black men — Ricky Roderick Price and Travis Price — in a scuffle with one subject on the ground and officers on top of him. Watts confirmed that an officer used forceful maneuvers to get the two men to comply, including at one point punching one of the men in the nose.

That video has been viewed over 75,000 times on Facebook and shared to the Rock Hill NAACP and Rock Hill Black Lives Matter chapter pages.

Gettys and Gray also were at the press conference. Both advocated for peaceful protests on Thursday night.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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