OC Police Investigating Incident After Online Video Creates Stir

OC Police Investigating Incident After Online Video Creates Stir
File photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — A six-second video of an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer aggressively arresting a youth involved in a near-riot outside a downtown underage dance club last week is under scrutiny after it quickly made the rounds on social media.

Shortly after midnight last Thursday, OCPD officers were on routine patrol in the area of an underage dance club on Worcester Street when they observed a shirtless male, later identified as Muhammed Purnell, 20, of Delmar, jumping up and down. According to police reports, Muhammed appeared to be inciting others around him.

According to police reports, several individuals in the crowd that had gathered tried to calm Purnell down at which point he cupped his hands around his mouth, drew his head back and screamed “(expletive deleted) 12.” The phrase is a slang term popular in certain communities meaning “(expletive deleted) the police.”

According to police reports, roughly 100 people gathered around the scene, and while many had looks of shock and disgust on their faces, the majority of the crowd became unruly and also began jumping around and shouting the same phrase. By now, a larger crowd had gathered and more people were becoming incited by Purnell’s outburst.

According to police reports, many in the crowd began jumping around, shouting expletives at police officers on the scene and screaming and pushing each other. The initial OCPD officer called for more officers to respond to the scene and then approached Purnell and placed him under arrest. According to reports, Purnell’s antics had the crowd so worked up it took 16 police units, including two mounted units, to quell the disturbance.

All in all, six arrests were made during the incident including two 13-year-olds and two 16-year-olds. Among those arrested was Martin Edward Ward III, 20, of Salisbury. According to police reports, when the responding back-up units approached the scene, Ward was observed yelling at mounted OCPD officers. Ward was being held back by his friends, but continued to pull away from them and allegedly shouted at a mounted officer “come down off that horse and I will kick your [expletives deleted] pig.”

According to police reports, a large number of the assembled group was visibly disturbed and shocked by what Ward was yelling and some in the area attempted to cover his mouth and pull him away from the scene. However, Ward broke free from his friends and began chanting expletives directed at the police officer. According to a witness and employee of the nearby business, someone in the group threw a plastic soda bottle at one of the police horses.

OCPD officers attempted to take Ward into custody for disturbing the police, resulting in a struggle to detain him. A six-second video of Ward’s arrest that quickly went viral on various social media platforms appears to show an OCPD officer attempt to flip Ward over onto his back so that the suspect could be handcuffed and also appears to show the officer punch the suspect in the side in an attempt to gain compliance.

The video, posted under the title “13-year-old Black boy beaten by Maryland police on July 4th,” was first posted on Twitter and was later picked up on Facebook by a page titled Revolution News, which appears to highlight cases of apparent police brutality across the U.S. and abroad along with cases of perceived injustice.

The Facebook video quickly went viral and spread rapidly across the Internet through various mediums. On the Revolution News page alone, the video of the downtown Ocean City incident had collected 2,500 likes, over 5,600 shares, 143,000 views and thousands of comments. A review of the comments appears to show a fairly divided mix of opinions on the alleged incident.

Because the video garnered so much public attention, and because there is more and more scrutiny on real and perceived cases of police brutality in recent years, the OCPD’s Office of Professional Standards is reviewing the footage to ensure the department’s protocols were observed and the officers’ actions were not excessive.

OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro said this week the six-second video was a brief part of a much larger incident. Nonetheless, Buzzuro said his department was taking a close look at the video of Ward’s arrest to ensure the officers’ actions were appropriate to the severity of the incident.

“The Ocean City Police Department is committed to providing the highest degree of professional conduct and quality police services to all residents and visitors,” the chief said in a statement. “We understand the public’s concern over the video, however, the video that was posted shows just a few seconds of a much larger incident that occurred that night. The department’s Office of Professional Standards is currently investigating the incident to include all videos, witness accounts and any other information that becomes available.”

In the end, Purnell and Ward were each charged with disorderly conduct. Two 16-year-olds including one male and one female, along with two male 13-year-olds were also arrested during the incident and were referred to the Department of Juvenile Services. The juveniles have been charged with a variety of offenses including disorderly conduct, obstructing and hindering and second-degree assault.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.