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DA, police review videos of knee on man’s neck

Allentown police and the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office are conducting an investigation this week into an incident that happened on Saturday in the 400 block of West Chew Street in that city in which a physical confrontation took place between officers, hospital personnel and a black man who police did not identify.

In a statement released by the department, police said officers were at the emergency room department outside St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus, around 6:45 p.m. due to an unrelated matter when they observed the man vomiting and staggering in the street outside the hospital, eventually stopping in the driveway of the emergency room.

Police said the erratic behavior of the man resulted in the officers and hospital staff interacting with him, at which time the man began to yell, scream and spit at the officers and hospital staff.

Police said as the officers tried to restrain him, all parties fell to the ground and the man continued to be noncompliant, which required officers to restrain the individual and hospital staff to apply a “spit shield” on him.

A video posted on social media shows a Pennsylvania police officer with his knee on a man’s neck while trying to restrain him has prompted protests and a demand from the local Black Lives Matter group to suspend the officers involved.

An officer has his elbow on the man’s neck before switching to a knee to hold him down while other officers restrained his arms. The man does not appear to be resisting during the video.

Police said the man was escorted into the hospital for treatment and was later treated and released.

Police said the investigation into this matter is being reviewed by the Lehigh County District Attorney and an internal investigation of the use of force is being conducted by the Allentown Police Department. They said the district attorney will issue a statement when his review is complete, which is not anticipated to be until late this week. The district attorney has assigned two county detectives to the investigation, police said.

In its statement, the police department said, “The investigation into this incident is moving swiftly. Part of the investigation has included the review of a 23-second video posted to social media. Although significant, the entirety of the interaction is being reviewed. Witnesses are being interviewed and additional videos of the interaction are being reviewed. We plan on releasing relevant videos later this week as we complete this inquiry.”

The video shot Saturday night from a passer-by’s vehicle shows Allentown officers restraining a man on the ground outside the emergency room of St. Luke’s Sacred Heart Campus. Allentown Police released a statement Sunday night saying the interaction is being investigated and additional videos are being reviewed.

The department released its use of force policy earlier this month, five weeks after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on George Floyd’s neck for several minutes, even after he stopped responding. Floyd’s death has sparked protests around the world calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism.

The policy prohibits neck restraints and chokeholds. It says that officers should only use the amount of force necessary to control the situation.

The video was posted to social media where people on the Black Lives Matter to Lehigh Valley Facebook page demanded answers from police. The group formed a protest late Saturday in front of the police station, and is planning another march to City Hall on Monday evening with community leaders slated as speakers.

Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell and police Chief Glenn Grantiz Jr. showed up to the protest. Both said the police need to investigate the matter further. O’Connell called the video “disturbing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.