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Warrants provide new details as one of two S.C. brothers whose arrests sparked protests appears in court

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 9:45 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2021 at 11:20 AM EDT
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Warrants released Friday provide more details about the case against one of two brothers whose controversial arrests led to protests in Rock Hill, S.C.

Ricky Price appeared in court for a preliminary hearing Friday morning. He was arrested, along with his brother Travis Price, near the Valero gas station on Willowbrook Avenue in Rock Hill on Wednesday, June 23. The video posted to Facebook on the same day shows police officers arresting the two men, a process that included a forcible takedown and became increasingly more physical until both men were handcuffed.

According to the warrants, Ricky began to “actively fight” officers, punching them in the face, when they removed his handcuffs to remove jewelry and other items during his arrest. The warrants state an unlawful loaded 9mm handgun and marijuana were found in his vehicle.

Officers also say 18 grams of crack cocaine, in two baggies, was found inside the patrol car where he was sitting once he was taken to jail, according to the warrants. During court, officers said only one bag has been recovered and has not bee tested for fingerprints or touch DNA.

During the preliminary hearing, the names of the Rock Hill police officers that were involved in that case were made public record. Those Rock Hill Police Officers at the scene were Sergeant Shaun Watson, Officer Matthew Palmer, Officer Jonathan Moreno, and Officer Jonathan Soto.

Sergeant Shaun Watson and Officer Jonathan Moreno are currently on administrative leave following that arrest.

Ricky Price was originally 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 resisting arrest.

After Friday’s court appearance, the first charge was reduced to simple possession of crack cocaine.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and Rock Hill Police Department are each conducting a review of the arrest

The body camera video footage from the controversial arrests is expected be released by the end of next week, officials say.

Kevin Brackett, the current Solicitor for the 16th Circuit, says he is confident in the timetable for the video to be released.

“We are very confident that we will be able to release all of the videos by the end of next week,” Brackett said.

When the video is released, Brackett says there will be a press conference for officials to explain what is in the video, share their thoughts and answer questions.

Brackett said he asked police to hold off on releasing the video until the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division interviewed every witness without their statements being influenced by a new video.

There are still a lot of unknowns. We still do not know the names of the officers involved. We also do not know why the Department of Homeland Security was in Rock Hill to begin with.

There are also questions surrounding why the charges against Travis Price have not been dropped. The initial police report indicated said Travis was belligerent and pushed officers, but you can see here new surveillance video does not show that. To many of the questions asked, Chief Chris Watts, at a press conference with religious leaders on Wednesday, answered this to most of the questions asked.

“All of this is under investigation. We are working with the solicitor’s office and SLED,” he says.

Some people are getting to see the video before others. We were told several of the religious leaders you see here were allowed see the bodycam footage in the last few days. Some are questioning why certain people who are not connected to the initial demands, like the religious leaders, were able to view the footage.

Travis Price spoke to the public on Monday as well.

During Monday’s press conference, Travis Price’s lawyers asked the Rock Hill Police Department to drop all charges against their client. They showed surveillance video and other evidence of the arrests that they say contradicts law enforcement’s narrative of what happened.

Police said Travis Price was belligerent, yelling at officers and even using his body to bump into an officer. His lawyer says the video disputes all of that.

Charges will remain, however, Rock Hill police and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division are investigating, and will review the use of force, along with the criminal cases against the brothers.

SLED requested that no videos be released for viewing until their agents have completed interviewing witnesses.

Around 8:40 p.m. the day of the arrests, Rock Hill Police sent a press release detailing the events of what they say happened during the arrests from their perspective. Some of the things officers detailed in the press release could not be seen in the original Facebook video.

Police say officers began searching Ricky Price when his brother, Travis Price, arrived on scene and approached officers. At that time, police say Travis tried to gather items officers were taking from Ricky and was told to move back.

According to police, Travis used his body to bump the officers backward as he continued trying to get near his brother to reach for the items while yelling. This is when police say Travis was forced back and told he was under arrest for interfering and physically contacting officers.

Police say Travis shoved officers, refusing to comply with orders to place his hands behind his back. Police say officers pushed Travis against a large tank behind him, telling him to put his hands behind his back.

According to police, Travis did not comply and officers began struggling with him. While trying to get control, police say officers and Travis went to the ground.

However, according to Travis’ lawyer Justin Bamberg during Monday’s press conference, his client did exactly what officers told him to do before the physical confrontation occurred. Bamberg showed surveillance video from the scene to back his claims.

He says Travis has been treated like a criminal even though he has never been arrested.

In the surveillance video, Travis can be seen parking at the gas station and walking toward the police officers that are searching his brother’s car and talking to him. Travis pauses for a moment as a customer begins to back their vehicle out of a parking spot before continuing to the scene.

Travis can be seen speaking to officers as one motions for him to step back. Travis appears to comply and stands back near another officer who is near the rear of Ricky’s car.

Over the next few minutes, one officer can be seen handing Travis his brother’s belongings, at Ricky’s request, at least three times. Soon after Travis is handed the third item, another officer approaches him. That’s when the physical confrontation begins.

Bamberg says the new officer, who he says was previously searching the vehicle, grabs Travis by the wrist as he forces him against a fuel tank behind him. Travis can be seen raising his hands and pointing toward the first officer who handed him Ricky’s belongings.

Travis is then taken to the ground and placed in handcuffs.

Once officers removed his handcuffs to get the jewelry and other possessions handed to Travis, police say Ricky tried to run. According to police, Ricky threw several punches, one hitting an officer in the face.

Police say the police K-9 was deployed as a display of force to gain compliance, with the handler maintaining control of the K-9; however, police say Ricky continued fighting to escape from officers.

According to police, as officers struggled to maintain control of Ricky, he and several officers fell to the ground in the parking lot.

As officers were on the ground with Ricky, police say one officer delivered several punches to Ricky’s upper thigh to get control. Police say Ricky continued to resist. Then police say the officer punched Ricky in the nose which caused him to bleed.

According to police, officers were able to take Ricky into custody at this time while other officers managed to handcuff Travis as well.

Police say officers rendered aid after the punch and EMS was called to respond; however, police say officers put Ricky in a patrol vehicle to meet EMS at the Law Center. EMS took Ricky to Piedmont Medical Center for treatment.

After taking Ricky out of the vehicle, police say officers found a Crown Royal bag containing crack cocaine where he was seated.

Police say Travis was placed into a patrol vehicle and taken to the Rock Hill City Jail.

Travis Price was charged with hindering police.

Police say the incident began when officers were conducting surveillance when they saw Ricky Price, who police described as “a known offender”, driving a black car on Dave Lyle Boulevard.

Police say Ricky Price made an illegal turn and changed lanes unlawfully, subsequently being stopped by officers. According to police, Price pulled into the gas station on Willowbrook Avenue and officials say he started moving about the vehicle out of officer’s view.

As officers approached the vehicle, they say Ricky Price was talking on his cell phone telling his brother, Travis, where he was stopped by officers. Based on prior interactions with Ricky Price, officers say they called for a K-9 to sniff the car. Police say the K-9 alerted them to illegal narcotics in the car, and Ricky Price was asked to get out of the vehicle while officers conducted a search.

During the search, officers reportedly found two bags of marijuana hidden in the driver’s door panel. Officers then placed Ricky Price under arrest and into handcuffs. Officers also reportedly located a 9mm pistol in the back seat of the vehicle.

The same night as the arrests, at least 100 people protested outside a police department in outrage over the video that has gone viral showing the arrests. The following morning the Facebook video had more than 2,000 reactions, more than 200 comments and nearly 95,000 views.

Rock Hill’s police chief says two officers were placed on administrative leave following the incident.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is investigating the incident. A SLED investigation was requested by state Representative John Richard C. King and Rock Hill Police Thursday.

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