SLED to investigate after arrest of 2 brothers in Rock Hill sparks protests

ROCK HILL, S.C. — The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has been called to conduct an independent investigation after two brothers were arrested Wednesday during a struggle with police officers at a gas station -- sparking protests.

Rock Hill Police Chief Chris Watts spoke at a news conference Thursday evening after the attorney and family of Ricky and Travis Price called out the police department.

Watts said the two officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

At a news conference Thursday morning, Attorney Justin Bamberg spoke on behalf of the family of Ricky and Travis Price saying the force used by the arresting officers was excessive.

“There’s no reason for the level of force we saw used in that video,” he said.

Video of the arrests posted on Facebook had more than 87,000 views, 2,100 reactions and 230 comments Thursday morning.

Authorities released information Wednesday about what they said happened.

The Rock Hill Police Department Violent Crimes Unit and agents with the Department of Homeland Security were conducting a surveillance operation and saw Ricky Price, a known offender, drive a Ford Mustang on Dave Lyle Boulevard. Ricky Price made an illegal turn and unlawfully changed lanes, which led to a traffic stop at the gas station on Willowbrook Avenue, police stated in a news release.

Price was talking with his brother on a cellphone in the car at the time of the stop, police said.

A K-9 unit was called to the scene to investigate the car for narcotics, because of past encounters police have had with Ricky Price, Rock Hill police said.

[Police need help ID’ing man accused of swiping mother’s purse at gas station]

Officers found a 9 mm pistol and two bags of pot in the Mustang. Police later found a Crown Royal bag containing crack cocaine where he sat, police said.

Officers started to search Ricky Price when his brother, Travis Price, got there and walked up to the scene, police said.

Travis Price tried to interfere and get Ricky Price’s things but was told to stay back by police, according to the news release.

Travis Price bumped officers back with his body to get closer to his brother while yelling at them, police said.

Officers pushed Travis Price against a large tank and told him to put his hands behind his back.

Travis Price continued to not be in compliance, police said.

Officers and Travis Price started to struggle when he was taken to the ground.

At that time, the other officers collected jewelry from Ricky Price since he asked that his things be passed along to someone else on the scene.

Officers agreed, but when they took off Ricky Price’s cuffs, he tried to run and threw a few punches, police said. One struck an officer in the face, the news release stated.

The police K-9 was used as a display of force to gain compliance, while the handler maintained control of the dog.

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Ricky Price continued to struggle with officers. He and several officers fell to the ground in the parking lot.

The video shows one officer punching him while they were struggling on the ground.

“One officer delivered several punches to Ricky’s upper thigh on the common peroneal nerve to gain compliance. The strikes had no effect and Ricky continued to resist. The officer then punched again, striking Ricky in the nose which caused him to bleed,” police said in the news release.

(VIDEO: More protests expected after brothers arrested during struggle with police in Rock Hill)

Officers took Ricky Price into custody while other officers handcuffed his brother.

Officers rendered aid after Ricky Price was punched, and EMS was called to respond.

Officers placed Ricky Price in a patrol vehicle to meet EMS at the Law Center and he was taken to Piedmont Medical Center for treatment.

About 100 people took to the streets Wednesday night in protest blocking the intersection of Dave Lyle Blvd and Black Street for several hours. They walked to the police department and at about 11 p.m. lit a fire surrounding a tree in front of the station. A police officer and the fire department arrived after the fire was lit.

Our crews could see objects being thrown at the police officer. Police in riot gear entered the scene after that.

At around 12:20 a.m., protesters dispersed peacefully, but said they planned to return some time Thursday.

Channel 9 showed the arrest video to former officer and use of force instructor Lee Ratliff.

“Don’t get me wrong. It does look bad, but the reality of it is, that’s part of the training,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff explained the officer punching Ricky Price.

“What he’s trying to do is what we call ‘pain compliance’ by striking him with his hand in the leg or the major muscle groups,” Ratliff said. “In that moment, he’s trying to get pain compliance.”

But the brothers’ family members and attorney said don’t agree.

Attorney Bamberg said the men shouldn’t be punished in the process of being arrested and it blows his mind that this keeps happening “to people who look like us.”

“It’s about the underlying principal of why time and time again we have to see this level of force used on people that look like us,” he said.

According to Bamberg, Ricky Price is in a wheelchair and has a broken nose.

Bamberg was joined by South Carolina Representative John King and members of the Rock Hill NAACP who called on the city to a thorough investigation into the officers’ actions.

The NAACP said it will make sure the incident is investigated and officers are held accountable.

King said he believes the officers involved should be taken off the streets immediately or fired.

Bamberg condemned whoever set the fire at the police station during the protests Wednesday night and asked that all demonstrations remain peaceful.

Norma Gray is president of the Rock Hill NAACP and did not like what she saw in the video.

“What I saw was not in compliance with what I know that their training is,” Gray said Wednesday. “I want to see what happened because the angle of the viral video only gives one perspective.”

Gray urged the community Thursday evening to allow the investigation in Rock Hill to play out.

“We called for transparency, and we’ve been given transparency,” she said.

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.

Travis Price was put into a patrol vehicle and taken to the Rock Hill City Jail and was charged with hindering police.

At no time was the police K-9 used to bite the brothers, and officers did not deploy any weapons or use a Taser, according to the police.

Ricky Price was denied bond Thursday while bond for Travis Price was granted.

An internal review of the incident is being conducted.

(WATCH: Residents in Rock Hill asked to stay inside overnight during search for accused killer)