Frightening footage shows four police officers holding a kneeling man at gunpoint as he repeatedly tells them that he’s unarmed before a bystander intervenes and begs the cops to put their weapons down.
Sky Holsey filmed the confrontation outside a gas station in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, California, on Friday.
At least four officers had their guns drawn and pointed in the direction of William Ewell, who was kneeling on the sidewalk with his hands above his head, facing away from them.
Ewell, 24, was being placed under arrest on suspicion of shoplifting after getting in an argument with a gas station employee.
Holsey said she watched as Ewell surrendered ‘instantly’ and ‘seemed in shock’ when confronted by police.
Though the man was a complete stranger to her, Holsey felt she had to intervene, having lost her boyfriend in a police shooting four years ago.
Her video went viral on social media over the weekend as viewers expressed outrage at the number of cops holding Ewell at gunpoint and many credited Holsey with preventing them from using deadly force.
Police later issued a statement accusing Ewell of stealing from the gas station and assaulting an employee behind the counter.
Frightening footage shows four police officers in Hawthorne, California, pointing their guns at a kneeling suspect as he repeatedly tells them that he’s unarmed
Police say the suspect, 24-year-old William Ewell, was being placed under arrest on suspicion of shoplifting. The officers said they had reason to believe Ewell was armed
Sky Holsey (pictured) watched the confrontation unfold on Friday. She recorded a video, in which she can be heard tearfully pleading with the officers to put their guns down
Holsey was getting gas at a station in the busy intersection Friday morning when she watched the ordeal unfold.
In the video she can be heard asking officers: ‘Is all that really necessary? Is all the guns drawn on him necessary?’
Holsey broke down in tears as she begged the cops to put their guns down and just arrest Ewell, whom she told to stay still ‘because they will shoot you’.
She later revealed to the officers that her boyfriend, Leroy Browning, was killed by police in 2015.
Ewell was finally taken into custody two minutes into the video.
An officer told Holsey that they were responding to a call about a robbery and said Ewell ‘loosely matches the description’ of the suspect.
‘We’re not saying he’s a suspect, but we’ve got to figure out what’s going on,’ the officer is filmed saying.
‘It says a weapon was involved. That’s the only reason he gets held at gunpoint.’
The officers put their guns down about two minutes into the video when Ewell was handcuffed
An officer was filmed telling Holsey that they were responding to a call about a robbery and saying Ewell ‘loosely matches the description’ of the suspect
The Hawthorne Police Department released a statement about the incident on Sunday, which said an officer was flagged down outside the gas station by an attendant who ‘pointed to a male subject [and stated] that he just assaulted an employee and walked out of the store’, the statement said.
At the same time, someone called 911 to report a robbery with ‘possibly weapons involved’, the statement said.
Police claim that Ewell and two other suspects went into the store and got in an argument with a female cashier over a ‘prior purchase’, which escalated when Ewell ‘walked behind the counter and forcibly grabbed store items from the display’.
The suspects allegedly assaulted the cashier before employees forced them out of the store and Ewell threw a trashcan at one of their faces.
Ewell and one of the other suspects, 38-year-old Antoine Freeman, were arrested and booked at the Hawthorne Police Department. Ewell was released with a citation on Monday, according to jail records.
Holsey recounted the part of the ordeal that she witnessed to HuffPost after her video went viral, racking up more than a million views on Instagram.
When asked whether she thought the officer’s actions were justified, she replied: ‘Absolutely not.’
‘Everybody seems to “fit the description”,’ she said. ‘Plus, I thought it was too excessive for that many police and the guns drawn like that.’
Holsey has received widespread praise for stepping in and deescalating the situation. She later revealed to officers that her boyfriend was killed in a police shooting in 2015