One of two brothers arrested in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in June has filed a lawsuit against the city and U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, who represents the region.
The June arrests of 34-year-old Travis Price and Ricky Price, 35, were filmed by a bystander and shared to Facebook Live, sparking outrage. Travis Price filed the lawsuit on Monday in York County civil court, alleging defamation, false arrest and malicious prosecution. He also has filed a defamation claim against Norman, The Herald Online reported.
Price was initially charged with hindering police activity as officers investigated his brother Ricky, although the charges were later dropped and a Rock Hill police officer involved in the incident was fired and charged with third-degree assault and battery.
According to the lawsuit, Travis Price was “detained, violently arrested, assaulted, subjected to excessive use of force, searched, imprisoned,” then forced to pay bond and find legal counsel as a result of the incident.
On June 23, police were searching Ricky’s car at a gas station when Travis arrived to collect his brother’s jewelry. According to the lawsuit and footage of the incident, Travis Price was slammed to the pavement and assaulted during the incident, which left him with visible injures and bleeding on his face.
Ricky Price was known to police, according to a statement from authorities, and was being stopped for a traffic violation. He had crack cocaine, marijuana, and a gun in the vehicle and was being taken into custody when his brother arrived.
Footage of the encounter shows officers arrest Ricky Price, then multiple officers and a K-9 surround his brother near a squad car. Several officers slammed Travis Price into the pavement as the group struggled. An officer struck Price multiple times as he was held down by another officer. As Price lifted his head from the ground in a prone position, his face was covered in blood.
“Oh my God, y’all, look at his face!” said the woman recording. “Y’all wrong for that. … He did not resist. I was right there the whole time. I got it on camera.”
Footage of the arrests were widely viewed online and sparked protests before Rock Hill Officer Jonathan Moreno was fired and charged on July 8 with assault.
“Officer Moreno broke the law,” said Chief Chris Watts at a news conference earlier this month, adding that the officer escalated the situating instead of de-escalating it when he took Price to the ground.
Moreno spoke at the July news conference, telling Price, “I know now you were allowed to be in the area,” before adding, “I apologize for the misunderstanding. My mistakes and meeting you in such a negative way, I just wish my emotions did not get the best of me. My choice of words do not define my character. I sincerely apologize for what you have experienced.”
Footage of the arrest shows officer Moreno challenging Price to “fight” while he was pinned against the pavement.
According to the suit, in addition the false imprisonment suffered by Travis Price, he was also subjected to defamatory statements when both the city and Rep. Norman made false statements about the incident.
The police department’s statement, released by the city, claims Travis Price was belligerent and pushed police, but the suit claims he was fully compliant.
On June 24, Norman posted about the incident on Facebook, thanking the Rock Hill Police and writing that Price had been “interfering with things, trying to get evidence out of the car, and was non-compliant with officers’ instructions” and “resisting or evading arrest,” but the lawsuit contends: “None of that was true. As such, Defendant Norman may be held individually liable to Plaintiff for the defamatory statements made against Plaintiff as would any private citizen.”
The lawsuit seeks damages for Price because he was physically hurt by the arrest, and emotionally hurt by the statements made about the incident.
An attorney for Rock Hill and a spokesperson for Norman’s office have both declined to comment on the matter, citing pending litigation.