Video footage of police officers using a Taser on a man in George Town early Saturday morning has circulated widely around Cayman, garnering almost 40,000 views as of press time Monday. Police say the man, who had a flare gun painted black to look like a real firearm, resisted arrest.
The dark, shaky video, shot outside the Rooftop bar on Mary Street around 3 a.m., shows one officer push the suspect and another use a Taser on him in the middle of the street. The first officer points a rifle at a crowd gathered on the street, estimated by a police spokeswoman to be about 20 people, and yells at them to “get back” just before the suspect stands up and runs away.
Police say they caught up with the 22-year-old from East End, who again resisted arrest, and the officers used a Taser on him a second time.
The video was posted to Facebook about 12 hours later on Saturday afternoon, prompting outraged comments, a debate over police use of force, and threats against the officers involved.
Jamal McLaughlin, who shot the video, said the first two officers on the scene “were being very aggressive.” He said he went out onto the street to look for a man he describes as his cousin. He said the two armed officers pulled the man’s hair and kicked him.
In the video, the officer uses the Taser on the suspect more than once. With the officers distracted by the crowd on the street, the man pulls out the probes from the Taser and runs down the street, according to the video and a police statement.
In a statement released by police, spokeswoman Jacqueline Carpenter writes, “Since Friday night, a truncated video portraying only a slice of the incident described above has circulated widely on social media. Based on this video several people online have drawn conclusions about the incident in its entirety and added comments regarding officers’ conduct during a difficult and dangerous incident, even though not in possession of all the facts.”
The statement continues, “Such commentary may even give validation to recalcitrant young people who are creating a very unsafe environment around places of entertainment for law-abiding citizens. In some cases, those online have even threatened certain officers who are assumed to have played some role in this incident.”
In an unusual move, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service released a detailed narrative of what happened before and after the incident that was caught on film.
“The man would not comply, at which point officers commanded him to get down on the ground. The suspect still refused, backing away as if to run. One officer stepped forward to detain the man, who wriggled out of his grasp and escaped, during the course of which an object resembling a firearm fell from the man’s waistband,” police said.
The police statement continues, “The second officer pursued the man, who continued to resist arrest and struggle with the officer, behaving in a threatening and aggressive manner. At this point, the officer deployed a Taser to contain the suspect. A crowd in the vicinity had gathered and advanced toward the officers in an aggressive and threatening manner. In the course of this, the suspect pulled the Taser probes from his body and ran away, pursued by the first officer along the side of building. Again the suspect challenged both officers and lunged at one of them, during which time the Taser was deployed again.”
Mr. McLaughlin said police used pepper spray on the crowd. “They sprayed pepper spray in a lot of people’s eyes,” he said. The police spokeswoman could not confirm whether pepper spray was used on the crowd, but in a second video a red canister of spray is clearly visible in a police officer’s hand as police push the crowd, including the man who took the video, away from the scene.
Police say the suspect is now out on bail while investigations continue. A second man, age 34, from George Town, was also arrested during the incident on suspicion of obstructing police. He was also released on police bail, according to the statement.
Separate incident uncovers gun, drugs
Police say this was not the first gun-related incident of the night. At about 11:30 p.m., police say, they responded to a report regarding three men on North Sound Road, one of whom allegedly had a gun. Police say one of the men ran off when they approached.
Officers chased him behind a building near Welly’s Cool Spot, but he got away, police say. Officers found a gun loaded with five rounds of ammunition in the area. Police also found “numerous packages of ganja” in an abandoned vehicle nearby.
Ms. Carpenter, the police spokeswoman, wrote in her statement, “Several incidents in recent months, including these last Friday, indicate an increased level of threat in the vicinity of night clubs on the weekends. A firearm was recovered by police outside one night club on May 7, and in addition to these incidents outlined above last Friday, police also learned that ten knives were taken off patrons of another popular night club that night by security guards.”