A picture of a 14-year-old’s bruised face taken after a recent shoplifting arrest is raising questions as to whether officers brutally assaulted him or if he sustained the injuries from a bad fall while escaping from them, Philly.com reports.
Authorities arrested Joseph Williams for shoplifting at a Walmart in Bucks County, Pa., last Tuesday. He managed to escape from custody while still in handcuffs. During the arrest, one of the officers shot him with a stun gun; one of the barbs struck the boy in the face.
Williams’ mother posted the picture of her son on Facebook this past Friday, believing he was a victim of police brutality. “The picture speaks 1,000 words. They brutally beat him,” Marissa Sergeant said. She refuted claims the bruises were caused by Williams falling face first.
The photo has been shared more 53,000 times.
“If he did fall on his face, why does he have scrapes and bruises all over his whole face, everywhere. Why is his nose broken? Why is his nostril lifted off his face? Why is both of his eyes black and swollen?”
“I’m left with a child who’s going to be physically damaged for the rest of his life,” she added. The boy says he is so embarrassed by his injured face that he covers it up when he goes outside. “Everywhere I go, everyone is staring at me,” Williams said.
Bucks County DA David Heckler said he believes the officers acted appropriately in this instance. “He should have stopped when police told him to,” Heckler said.
He also explained how the face-first theory is plausible.
“You take off running at a full clip and someone pulls your legs out from under you, and you’re cuffed from behind, you’re going to break your fall with your face,” he said. “I could well believe that you’d have fairly substantial bruising, cuts and scrapes.”
Heclker shared that there are eyewitnesses and police dash cam footage his office may look through. When informed of Heckler’s explanation, Sergeant rebuked, “That’s impossible. Did he get up and fall 15 more times?”
She claims she went to the Tullytown police station following her son’s arrest, but police barred her from seeing him. He was treated at a local hospital and had to sign off on his medical treatment and discharge before being sent to a juvenile-detention center.
“They didn’t want me to see him,” Sargeant said. “They wanted to hide him as long as they could.”
Tullytown police chief Dan Doyle released the following statement to the Bucks County Courier Times this past Saturday:
“The police department is aware of the misinformation that has been circulating on social media regarding an arrest made by Tullytown officers. A thorough review of the incident is underway.”