A woman in the Los Angeles area is being praised for filming police as they confronted a black man with their guns drawn while he knelt with his hands above his head.
In the video, filmed Friday in the city of Hawthorne, at least four officers can be seen pointing their guns at the man, who is kneeling on the sidewalk, facing away from the officers with his hands up.
More Hawthorne Police Department officers arrive as the woman, Sky Holsey, begs the officers to put their guns away. The man can be heard saying he is unarmed.
Holsey said the incident occurred at a busy intersection in Hawthorne, in Los Angeles County. William Ewell, 24, ended up being arrested that Friday morning, police records show.
Holsey’s video went viral over the weekend, leaving many people outraged over the number of police officers with their guns drawn. Some people credit Holsey with preventing the officers from using deadly force against Ewell.
Cops with guns drawn surrounded an unarmed Black man, William, who was kneeling on the ground with his hands in the air, in California this AM.— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) June 9, 2019
It’s filmed by a young woman, Skye, who I think literally saves his life. Listening to her is gut-wrenching.pic.twitter.com/JKv8khF1Fd
Holsey told HuffPost in an email that she was getting gas before work when the confrontation occurred. She said Ewell, whom she doesn’t know personally, “instantly” surrendered to the officers by kneeling with his hands up, noting that “he seemed in shock.”
Holsey said she began filming because she believed that the police were using excessive force.
“Is all that really necessary,” Holsey can be heard telling the officers in the video. “Is all the guns drawn on him necessary?”
He was arrested in connection with an argument with a gas station employee over a prior purchase, according to a news release posted by police on Monday. Police arrested Ewell on suspicion of robbery. He was released Monday with a citation, according to an arrest record.
Asked whether the actions of the officers were justified, Holsey told HuffPost: “Absolutely not.”
“Everybody seems to ‘fit the description,’” she said. “Plus, I thought it was too excessive for that many police and the guns drawn like that.”
In Hawthorne, California police had guns drawn on an unarmed black man, William. The pain you hear in the woman's voice is chilling. I felt it through the screen. Heartbreaking.— Kenidra4Humanity (@KenidraRWoods_) June 9, 2019
Here's the police department info:
12501 Hawthorne Blvd, Hawthorne, CA 90250
1 (310) 349-2700 pic.twitter.com/Ioz9zBOTp4
Police scandal in Hawthorne, an LA suburb — Unarmed man surrounded by cops who don’t move to arrest, but keep guns on him while 1 cop points her military weapon AT citizen capturing this on cell phone.— David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) June 10, 2019
The police chief & every cop on scene needs to be held accountable. https://t.co/jRDZxffs3e
As Holsey filmed the confrontation Friday, she warned Ewell to stay still “because they will shoot you” while she asked the officers to put their guns down and just arrest the man.
Holsey began crying as the officers kept their guns aimed at Ewell, as seen on her video. She later told the officers that her boyfriend, Leroy Browning, was killed by police in 2015.
After more than two minutes of filming, the police apprehended Ewell. One officer approached Holsey and told her that they were responding to a robbery and that the man “loosely matches the description” of the suspect.
“We’re not saying he’s a suspect, but we’ve got to figure out what’s going on,” the officer told her, a moment that was also captured on her video. “It says a weapon was involved. That’s the only reason he gets held at gunpoint.”
Thinking about all of this, it hits me that what while what Skye did is remarkable, and it's incredible that she happened to be there at that exact same time, it's not incredible at all that she lived through a horribly similar experience with her boyfriend.— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@drrjkavanagh) June 10, 2019
In a series of tweets, Rebecca Kavanagh, an attorney and media relations director of The Appeal, a criminal reform news blog, said that Holsey was “remarkable” for filming the incident, which she described as a “massive over-use of force.”
On Monday, Kavanagh said that police often justify arrests by claiming that the person “matched the description.”
“This is absolutely the number one pretext police use to stop and search Black and Brown people,” she tweeted.
Kavanagh described those searches as “harassment” on Sunday.
And as I said yesterday, when talking about the Hawthorne police department justifying their arrest of William by claiming he matched the description of a suspect, this is absolutely the number one pretext police use to stop and search Black and Brown people.— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@drrjkavanagh) June 11, 2019
When you read in a newspaper that someone is a suspect in a crime because they matched the description, don't just accept it, ask what that description was.— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@drrjkavanagh) June 11, 2019
Let me just address this "fits the description" bullshit I see people are mentioning in the comments. In my work as a public defender, I can tell you, this is the MOST COMMON pretext police use to stop and search Black people. It is harassment.— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@drrjkavanagh) June 10, 2019
In a news release on Sunday, the Hawthorne Police Department said that an employee of a gas station flagged police on the street and pointed to a “male subject” across the street, accusing him of assaulting an employee.
At the same time, police say, someone called 911 to report a robbery with “possibly weapons involved.”
Police accused Ewell of arguing with a female cashier over a “prior purchase” and “forcibly” grabbing “store items from the display.” Police also claimed that Ewell assaulted an employee with a trashcan.
Kavanagh on Tuesday warned people against taking the police news release at face value.
Why do people think posting a press release issued by the police department ends a discussion? Like, oh now we know what really happened because here is what the police said.— Rebecca J. Kavanagh (@drrjkavanagh) June 12, 2019
There's two sides when it's Nazis and anti-racists, but when it's cops, there's just one side? https://t.co/yHEa8wF7d2
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.