TULLYTOWN The Bucks County district attorney on Thursday cleared Tullytown police of any wrongdoing when they used a Taser last month on a handcuffed teen who had run from them and then fell on his face.
The 14-year-old suffered numerous facial injuries. A photo of his bruised and scabbed face, which went viral, prompted the investigation.
The boy's family said it remained unsatisfied with the district attorney's conclusion and repeated claims of excessive force after the boy was arrested on shoplifting charges. The family's attorney is conducting an independent investigation. The FBI is reviewing the matter as well.
During an hour-plus news conference, District Attorney David Heckler said his conclusion was based on the accounts of five witnesses, the boy's statements after his arrest, video from two police cars, and other evidence.
"This all happened in front of literally hundreds of people," Heckler said.
The Bristol Township teen, Joey Williams, and a man he was with had been chased down by the police after allegedly shoplifting from a Walmart store on Route 13, one of the busiest roads in Bucks County. Both were handcuffed and standing outside an SUV they had been in when the boy took off, according to police-car video footage Heckler showed reporters. He declined to release copies of the video because the boy is a minor.
The police car cameras did not capture the actual use of the Taser. They showed the boy before and after the incident, including him sitting in the back of a police car with a Taser barb in his cheek.
Heckler said police were justified in using the Taser to prevent the boy from running handcuffed into heavy traffic and to protect the officers' safety on a busy road. He added that the boy's facial injuries were consistent with someone who suffered a Taser barb to the cheek and then "face planted" after the fall. He said one of the Taser barbs struck the boy in the check because he turned his face while running.
Heckler added that the boy told authorities after his arrest that no one had hit him during the incident.
The boy's family disputes Heckler's account. Greg Brinkley, an advocate for the family, told reporters the teen suffered a concussion and was remembering more from his arrest, including being "aggressively attacked." Brinkley said the use of the Taser was excessive and unnecessary because the boy was running away from traffic, not into it.
Fortunato N. Perri Jr., the family's Center City-based attorney, said medical professionals had told the family that the boy's injuries were inconsistent with Tullytown's account.
"This certainly by no means closes our investigation," Perri said.
Carrie Adamowski, an FBI spokeswoman, confirmed that the agency was reviewing the incident. Tullytown police had requested that both the FBI and the District Attorney's Office investigate the matter.