Community members are crying out after cellphone footage revealed off-duty Bullard police officers, who were working security at the Times Square Grand Slam entertainment complex in Tyler, slammed a Black teenager to the ground on Saturday evening.
Video shows the officers speaking with a group of three individuals when the teen, who has his hands behind his back and appears to be in handcuffs, begins pushing up against the shoulder of one of the officers.
The officer then grabs the teen near his neck and slams him to the sidewalk, as members of a crowd who had gathered to watch the incident scream in protest.
One person who recorded the encounter can be heard shouting: “Hey, get off of him like that! Get off of him!”
The video has picked up thousands of views and hundreds of comments on Facebook, with some defending the actions of the security team, but many calling the act racist, excessively violent and yet another example of police brutality.
Several community members have said that the incident began because the teen had been charging his phone at the venue and employees asked that he buy something or leave.
“On Saturday, Oct. 24 we had a minor who came to our facility and did not follow our posted code of conduct,” a statement posted to the Times Square Grand Slam Facebook page that has since been removed, said. “As a result, he was asked to leave the property by our security contractor, who was an off-duty Bullard police officer.”
“He refused to leave and was then escorted out,” the statement continues. “After leaving the facility, he was involved in an altercation with security and video has been posted to social media.”
Times Square Grand Slam said one of the officers involved was wearing a body cam, and that the company has asked to review this footage.
Because the teen involved was a minor, this footage will not be released without the consent of the parents.
All questions regarding the incident would be deferred to the Bullard Police Department, the statement concluded.
Times Square Grand Slam officials said the initial Facebook post was removed because it was not intended for the public, but rather was created in response to an inquiry by the NAACP.
In an official statement provided to the Tyler Paper Tuesday evening, Times Square Grand Slam said it was opened “to provide a premier family friendly experience.”
“We are committed to maintaining a safe, family friendly atmosphere for our guests and have paid security contractors on site to keep our patrons and team members safe,” the statement reads. “At entrances, we have our code of conduct posted that will be followed by everyone.”
The Bullard Police Department confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that off-duty officers were present at the movie theater and entertainment complex, located on South Broadway Avenue, on Saturday evening.
Both police and city of Bullard officials said they are reviewing footage from the incident and are conducting an internal investigation, but declined to comment further at this time.
According to officials with the city of Tyler, off-duty officers are, in general, permitted to wear their uniforms when working security, but if an arrest is to be made, on-duty officers from the local jurisdiction must be called in. The Tyler Police Department confirms they had no involvement in the incident and that dispatch was not called to the Grand Slam address, according to Public Information Officer Andy Erbaugh.
A planned protest outside the Grand Slam location on Tuesday evening saw approximately eight community members, some wearing Black Lives Matter attire, gather in support of the teen involved.
They said that, for anyone – especially a 15-year-old – the body slam was an excessive use of force and an overreach of power, no matter the circumstances.