Leaders of the Prince George’s County Branch of the NAACP and community members in Laurel are calling for the removal of a Laurel Police officer who was filmed last week slapping a handcuffed man at a local bar.
During a community meeting organized by the NAACP at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, community members said they wanted the officer removed from duty pending the investigation as well as a stronger response from the City of Laurel.
Bob Ross, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said he wanted the city’s police chief held accountable.
“The police chief handled this so badly …the chief should have removed this individual,” he said. The city is "very caviler" about the incident.
The incident occurred Aug. 5 when police were called at 2 a.m. to the Laurel Station Bar and Grill along the 14900 block of Baltimore Avenue to investigate a fight between patrons. In a video captured by a witness, two officers are seen taking D’ante Williams, 27, away in handcuffs when one of the officers began yelling and striking Williams over the face and head.
Williams was subsequently charged with second degree assault, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest among other charges, according to court records, which list the case as being closed.
City officials have said the case is still under investigation and the officer, listed as J. Diaz-Chavarria in a $3 million lawsuit filed against the city by Williams, remains on duty. Bob Manzi, the city’s attorney, told Laurel Patch this week that the city is prepared to litigate the suit.
Still, the roughly 30 people who attended the meeting largely contended that what happened to Williams is nothing out of the ordinary for the Laurel Police Department. Others said that excessive force by police often targets young black and Hispanic males.
“It’s time for people in this city to realize it’s time for a change,” said Thomas Matthews, a minister at St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Laurel.
Ricardo Roach, 28, said he’s been homeless most of his life and sleeps in his truck at various locations in Laurel. Last month, he alleged that he was the victim of excessive force by Laurel Police and is currently working with the NAACP to file a complaint.
“I’m being bred to be afraid,” he said to the crowd. “What do I do now?”
Ross urged members of the Laurel community to organize and protest if they wanted to see changes in their relationship with Laurel Police. Ross is working with Laurel residents to organize a protest and conference outside the Laurel Police Department Monday at 6:30 p.m.
“You got a police department out of control,” he said.