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Video shows Pennsylvania cop Tase man sitting on curb

By Ray Downs

July 1 (UPI) -- Police in Lancaster, Penn. are investigating an incident in which one of its officers was caught on video using a Taser to shoot a man who was sitting on a street curb.

The video, which was posted to Facebook on Thursday, shows Lancaster City Police Officer Philip Bernot telling 27-year-old Sean Williams to straighten his legs as he sits on the curb. Williams appears to straighten his legs halfway, but then tucks them back in closer to his body. At that point, Bernot shoots Williams with the Taser

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According to a police report, Bernot told Williams to straighten his legs out and cross his legs "as a measure of control to insure that if someone is going to flee or offer physical resistance, they will have to move their legs under them to do so."

"Non-compliance is often a precursor to someone that is preparing to flee or fight with Officers," the report adds. "When Williams failed to follow instructions, Bernot deployed the [Taser] on Williams, the probes striking him on his back."

But the video has raised questions about Bernot's use of force.

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"He wasn't combative at the time, he wasn't running, he was curling his legs up," Geoffrey P. Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina who studies the use of force, told The New York Times. "He wasn't even resisting. There was no justification for any force."

Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorache issued a video statement on Facebook shortly after the video was posted on Thursday.

"Like you, when I saw the video, I was upset by it and it is of great concern to me," Sorace said. "We take the use of force very seriously."

She added that her office is in communication with civil rights groups and others regarding the incident.

Williams was then arrested for an outstanding warrant, which was for charges of Possession of a Controlled Substance (PCP) and Public Drunkenness.

Police were originally called to the scene because of reports that a man was walking around with a baseball bat. But the police report says Williams did not have a bat, no bat was found at the scene and witnesses said he didn't have a bat. But witnesses said Williams was harassing a group of three people and had exhibited "erratic behavior" in recent days. Before police arrived, witnesses said he "kept repeating that he wanted a specific item, his Social Security card, from her."

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