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Former police officer on trial for assault charge from controversial arrest of brothers in Rock Hill

Former officer Jonathan Moreno is facing a third-degree assault and battery charge.
Former officer Jonathan Moreno’s trial started Monday in York County.
Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 9:14 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2022 at 7:24 PM EST
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - The officer charged in connection with the controversial arrest of Travis Price in Rock Hill last summer appeared in court Monday for his trial.

Former officer Jonathan Moreno is facing a third-degree assault and battery charge.

Police arrested brothers Travis and Ricky Price near the Valero gas station on Willowbrook Avenue in Rock Hill on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

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.

One brother’s charges were dismissed and one police officer has been fired and charged as body cam footage from controversial arrests in Rock Hill was released

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.

Ricky Price was 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.

Related coverage:

One of two S.C. brothers whose arrests sparked protests files lawsuit against City of Rock Hill

1 brother’s charges dismissed, 1 officer fired and charged as body cam video released from Rock Hill arrests

Former officer Jonathan Moreno sat in court across from the eight handpicked jurors who will decide his fate - guilty or not guilty.

There are six regular jurors and two alternates. The jurors are made up of one black woman, four white women and one white man. The two alternates are a white woman and a Latina woman.

In opening statements, Solicitor Kevin Brackett argued that the law protected everyone and that no one is above the law. He argued, “In America, no man is above the law.”

Brackett argued that a video shows Moreno broke the law and he told the jury, who saw that video Monday, they would see what he was referring to. Both the police body cam and store surveillance videos were played in court on Monday.

But Moreno’s defense lawyers argue he was being used as a scapegoat by the city. They say Moreno did not know why Travis Price was inside the investigation perimeter, so he was concerned for his fellow officers and people at the convenience store.

Travis Price was the first witness on the stand to start out the trial. He was called by the prosecution. Price argued what was done to him by Moreno was unnecessary and not the way he deserved to be treated. He said Moreno roughhoused him and treated him badly when all he wanted to do was help his brother.

Officers had given Price permission to get his brother’s jewelry, which he testified too and the video shows.

Price also claimed he was not resisting arrest or pushing up against Moreno, two things heard on the video. He says he was trying to comply with what the other officers on the scene had told him. Moreno was not in the area when the other officers were giving Price his brother’s jewelry.

Moreno’s defense lawyers argue he was being used as a scapegoat by the city. They say Moreno did not know why Travis Price was inside the investigation perimeter, so he was concerned for his fellow officers and people at the convenience store.

When Moreno took the stand, he argued the same things. He told jurors that he was scared for his fellow officers because their training tells them to watch everyone’s back. He also says he did not know why Price was inside the traffic stop perimeter when they were also trained to keep people out of the way. He called the entire situation a “misunderstanding.”

After a court appearance on July 2, 2021, the first charge was reduced to simple possession of crack cocaine.

The initial police report indicated said Travis Price was belligerent and pushed officers. His attorney said he was seen on video being choked and tackled by Rock Hill police.

Travis Price was originally charged with hindering police. Rock Hill City Solicitor Chisa J. Putman previously said he was charged with hindering police in error and his charges were dismissed and expunged from his record.

Price’s arrest sparked several nights of race-related protests after videos showing the arrest were posted on social media.

Last summer, Moreno apologized to the police department and Travis Price directly.

“I’m here to be held accountable for my actions. I hope the community will accept my apology. I hope my brothers and sisters in law enforcement will accept my apology. Travis Price, I hope you accept my apology, I’m sorry,” Moreno said.

After he spoke, Moreno was taken to the detention center to be booked.

During a preliminary hearing for Ricky Price, the names of all 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, now former officer Jonathan Moreno and Officer Jonathan Soto.

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