A video of an Allentown police officer kneeling on a man, apparently on his head or neck, has sparked outrage in the Lehigh Valley city.
The video, about 40 seconds long, shows three police officers trying to restrain a man who is on his stomach while outside a hospital. Two of the officers appear to be kneeling on or near the man’s legs, while a third kneels near his head as all three try to hold his arms behind his back while trying to handcuff him as he screams out.
At one point the officer near the man’s head apparently drives his elbow into the man’s neck or head before shifting his bodyweight and briefly repeating the action, this time with his knee. The three officers continue to try to handcuff the man.
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“They had that man on the ground and he was screaming for his life,” said Kay, who shot the cellphone video as she drove by the St. Luke’s Hospital-Sacred Heart on Saturday. She asked that NBC10 use only her first name.
“The knee – definitely that was a huge shocker, especially after all this going on,” Kay said.
Allentown recently made public its use of force policy, which bans chokeholds or neck restraints unless officers are preventing “imminent death or bodily injury” to themselves or members of the public.
The incident has received scrutiny after the death of George Floyd, who died in May after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death was captured on video and sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
Kay’s video ends as another woman, seemingly a nurse, asks her to “keep going” because Kay’s stopped car is “blocking the street.”
“I was shocked. I was disturbed,” Kay told NBC10. She said she complied after the woman told her to leave because she had to go pick up her son.
Various protesters in Allentown took to the streets Saturday night, demanding answers from the city’s mayor, Ray O'Connell, and Police Chief Glenn Granitz.
O’Connell called the video “disturbing,” but said, “I think we need to gather all the facts and information before we go forward,” the Allentown Morning Call reported.
Allentown Police Chief Glenn Granitz released a statement Sunday evening with more details on the incident.
Granitz said Allentown officers were at the Emergency Room Department outside Saint Luke's Hospital – Sacred Heart Campus on the 400 block of W. Chew Street at 6:42 p.m. Saturday for an unrelated matter. While they were there they noticed a man vomiting and staggering in the street. The man then stopped at the driveway outside the Emergency Room.
“The observed erratic behavior resulted in the officers and hospital staff interacting with the individual,” Chief Granitz wrote. “The individual began to yell, scream and spit at the officers and hospital staff. As the officers attempted to restrain the individual, all parties fell to the ground. The individual continued to be noncompliant which required officers to restrain the individual and the hospital applied a spit shield.”
Granitz said the man was then taken to the hospital where he was treated and later released.
The Lehigh County District Attorney will investigate the incident while the Allentown Police Department will investigate the use of force, according to Granitz.
The DA assigned two county detectives to investigate and will release a statement once the investigation is complete. The investigation is expected to be finished by later this week, according to Granitz.
“Part of the investigation has included the review of a 23 second video posted to social media,” Granitz wrote. “Although significant, the entirety of the interaction is being reviewed. Witnesses are being interviewed and additional videos of the interaction are being reviewed. We plan on releasing relevant videos later this week as we complete this inquiry.”