A Virginia police department says it has begun an internal investigation into an incident in which one officer used a Taser on a 17-year-old suspect during a routine traffic stop. Video (shown below) of the violent incident recently began popping up on various sites around the Internet, and the woman who filmed the incident has said police tried to delete the footage from her cellphone.
Virginia Beach Police Department said Thursday it had already started investigating the Jan. 10 incident because force was used during the traffic stop, WTKR News reports. Department representatives told WTKR the department wasn’t aware until recently that a video of the incident even existed.
That statement is false, according to 18-year-old Courtney Griffith, who shot the video with her cellphone.
Griffith was reportedly driving her car that January night when she was pulled over because the light above her license plate was out. Her 17-year-old friend — who is only identified in reports by his first name, Brandon — was in the backseat.
The officer who stopped Griffith claimed to have smelled marijuana in the car. Griffith said she propped her cellphone on the dash and began recording the incident as the discussion grew heated. She said she believed the officer recognized her from a previous incident in which she was arrested as a minor in possession of marijuana.
The officer can be heard in the video requesting repeatedly for Brandon to exit the vehicle. Brandon replies each time that he is 17 years old and doesn’t want to submit to a search until his mother is called to the scene.
As the tone of the conversation escalates, Brandon gets pepper sprayed while shouting repeatedly that he is 17.
When he still refuses to exit, the officer shoots Brandon with a Taser at least twice.
Once officers pull Brandon from the vehicle the video continues but only catches the conversation between Brandon and the officers who are, by then, off camera.
The last thing recorded in the video is an officer peering into the car and grabbing the phone.
Griffith recently told The Free Thought Project that she suspects that officer deleted the video.
“When I went back to my car, my phone had been brought off the dashboard and was on the drivers seat,” Griffith said. “I asked the cops who deleted the video, after looking for it in my folder, and they all started laughing. It was sickening.”
The 18-year-old said she luckily found the video later in a folder for recently deleted items.
Griffith said she then posted the video to her Facebook page where it has been viewed over 500,000 times, according to WTKR.
As word spread, the video was posted to YouTube and has become the subject of a lengthy Reddit thread.
While many Reddit users remarked on the brutality of the upsetting incident, others were more concerned with the allegations that police attempted to delete the video from Griffith’s phone.
“Attempted destruction of evidence should come with its own heavy penalty,” wrote user zombromcom. “Like paltry fines for environmental destruction, society can't afford cops applying cost-benefit analysis to the situation.”
Others said they got little comfort from claims the police were conducting an internal investigation and said departments should be required to have a panel of citizens review such incidents.
“‘Good news! We investigated ourselves and found we did nothing wrong!’” wrote lilmikeyk, joking about the conflict of interest inherent in internal investigations. “We need to eliminate Internal Affairs departments and replace them with citizen review boards.”
There has been no word as to when the Virginia Beach Police Department plans to be done with its investigation.
WTKR reports the officer involved has been placed on administrative duty.
Griffith was issued a summons for a charge of simple possession of marijuana. That charge has since been dismissed, according to WTKR.
The Free Thought Project reports Brandon is still facing charges of assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.