The Galveston County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office is investigating a May 6 incident in which two of its deputies allegedly used excessive force to arrest a Dickinson High School student who had been caught with a vaping device at school.
Eighteen-year-old student Keitherine Williams was caught in a restroom by school staff holding a vaping device. After leaving the school, Williams was stopped by two Galveston Sheriff’s deputies, who allegedly beat the teenager before arresting him.
Keitherine’s aunt and legal guardian Regina Williams says she has seen part of the surveillance video showing his arrest outside the school. She said deputies pinned the black youth down with knees on his back and neck. Keitherine says he passed out during the arrest and woke up in jail.
“It’s wrong for anybody to brutalize, to slam, to hurt any kid at school,” Regina Williams told KTRK-TV, the Houston ABC affiliate that first reported the story. “We send our kids to school to be safe, not to come home hurt just because of a vape.”
A medical examination conducted after Keitherine was released from jail found the special needs student had injuries consistent with blunt-force trauma. Photos of the teenager taken after the incident (see video above) show his face covered with bruises and abrasions.
He has been charged with resisting arrest and minor in possession of tobacco. (Although Williams is 18 and a legal adult, some states like Texas criminalize the actual possession and use of vapes and tobacco by people under the legal age to buy, which is 21 in all states.)
Dickinson is a city of about 20,000 south of Houston in Galveston County.
It’s not the first time black teenagers have faced physical confrontations with police over vaping or possession of vapes. Earlier this year, an Atlanta (GA) Police officer tasered and handcuffed a 17-year-old after confronting him over vaping at a city skate park.
Last year, in an incident that got nationwide attention, several black teenagers visiting the Ocean City, Maryland boardwalk were involved in a series of violent confrontations with police. One was tackled to the ground and kneed in the ribs and abdomen, and another was tasered while he held his hands in the air.
In addition to police violence, teenage vapers have faced strip searches in schools, including an incident in Wisconsin that led to charges against one administrator. Similar events have occurred in other schools, including one last year in Montreal, Canada.
With flavored vape bans spreading and the FDA preparing to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes, the spectre of Drug War-style enforcement looms over the nicotine marketplace. Prohibition never works, but those who argue for it always believe it will work this time.
“As tobacco, e-cigarettes, and e-liquids transition from legal to illicit, law enforcement agencies will more aggressively interfere with production, distribution, retail sales, and in some cases even individual use,” wrote author Jacob Grier in a recent Reason article. “Every such interaction carries with it the possibility of freedom lost, perhaps violently.”
Video courtesy KTRK-TV.