Charges have been dropped for one of two brothers arrested in South Carolina last month, authorities said, while an officer involved has been fired and charged with assault in a case that prompted outrage after video of the arrests surfaced on social media.
Travis Price had his charge of hindering police dropped Thursday and his record expunged, according to his attorney Justin Bamberg.
Travis Price had been told he was under arrest for interfering and physically contacting officers during the incident in Rock Hill on June 23, when his brother, Ricky Price, was placed under arrest following a traffic stop.
Meantime, now-former Rock Hill Police Officer Jonathan Moreno has been charged with third-degree assault and battery in connection with his confrontation with Travis Price, said Kevin Brackett, solicitor for a judicial circuit that includes York County.
In a news conference Thursday, Brackett said Moreno didn’t know Travis Price had the permission of other officers to retrieve his brother’s jewelry when Moreno confronted him. Brackett said the officer believed Travis Price was too close to the officers arresting his brother.
An investigation found Moreno’s interaction with Travis Price violated department policy, citing his failure to de-escalate the situation, Rock Hill Police Chief Chris Watts said at the news conference.
“In fact, he escalated the situation,” the police chief said.
“Investigator Moreno’s actions were not in accordance to the police department’s values or expectations,” Watts said. “Based on the totality of investigator Moreno’s actions, his employment has been terminated.”
Moreno attended Thursday’s news conference before he handed himself over to jail for booking. During it, he apologized to Travis Price, saying he wished “my emotions didn’t get the best of me.”
“My choice of words do not define my character. I sincerely apologize for what you have experienced. What occurred is out of my character,” Moreno said. “As a man, a father, and a former police officer, being held accountable is the only rule. And I am no exception. I’m here to be held accountable for my actions.”
Moreno was arrested and booked at the York County Detention Center, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said Friday.
The investigation found the actions of other officers involved did not violate the department’s standard, Watts said. No criminal charges were filed against the officers in the arrest of Ricky Price, who Watts said was “actively fighting officers.”
Chisa Putman, senior solicitor with the city of Rock Hill, said in Thursday’s news conference that she and the police chief had reviewed footage of the incident and both recognized issues with Travis Price’s arrest.
“Based on our review, we agreed that Mr. Travis Price was charged in error,” she said. “Therefore the city solicitor’s office has dismissed the charge of hindering police as it relates to Mr. Travis Price and it will be expunged from his record.”
“Mr. Price,” she added, “I do apologize.”
Officials did not announce any changes to the charges against Ricky Price. He had been 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 assaulting a police officer while resisting arrest, according to police.
Bamberg told CNN Friday, however, that the firearm charge had been dropped, and the possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine had been reduced to simple possession.
Ricky Price was trying to help his brother when incident occurred, attorney says
The incident began when officers from the Rock Hill Police Department Violent Crimes Unit and agents from the Department of Homeland Security pulled over Ricky Price for an illegal turn and lane change while surveilling him, according to a June statement from Rock Hill police.
Ricky Price pulled into a gas station, where police said he called his brother, Travis Price, from inside the car.
Police found two bags of marijuana hidden in the driver’s door panel and a 9mm pistol in the back seat of the car, according to the statement. Officers later found a bag containing crack cocaine where Ricky Price was seated, the statement said.
Ricky Price was put in handcuffs and placed under arrest, police said, but Travis Price tried to get closer to his brother to reach for belongings that officers were removing from Ricky Price during his arrest. Travis Price “used his body to bump the Officers backward,” police said in the June statement.
Travis Price was told by police he was under arrest for interfering and physically contacting officers, according to police, and officers pushed him against a large gas tank only after he shoved them and would not put his hands behind his back.
The video shows Travis Price and officers falling to the ground. The video then shows a scuffle between Ricky Price and multiple officers, eventually leading to him and several officers also falling to the ground.
Officers took off Ricky Price’s handcuffs to remove jewelry he said he wanted removed, police said, when he attempted to flee and threw punches at them. One of the punches struck an officer in the face, according to the June police statement.
In the video, one officer can be seen apparently punching Ricky Price as they struggle on the ground. According to police, the officer was punching his upper thigh “on the Common Peroneal Nerve to gain compliance,” but when that didn’t work, the officer hit him in the nose, causing him to bleed.
The woman who shot the video can be heard saying Ricky Price was tased, but police said that officers did not deploy any weapons or use Tasers on either man.
In a statement, Bamberg, who is also representing Ricky Price, rejected Watts’ allegation that his client was fighting officers, saying Ricky Price “was never resisting arrest.”
“Once Moreno started unlawfully using force on Travis, things changed,” Bamberg said. “To say Ricky was ‘actively fighting officers’ is just law enforcement’s way of trying to bury him to make up for their own pitfalls on the scene.”
“Ricky was attempting to help his baby brother who at the time was being attacked by a now former officer who already acknowledged his own wrongdoing and was jailed for assault and battery,” Bamberg said.
The incident was investigated by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
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