ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — A three-minute cell-phone video is causing a storm of controversy in Isle of Wight County.
The video shows a sheriff’s deputy tasing Ervin Laws Saturday afternoon. Laws’ family says the force was unnecessary, but the sheriff’s office says a lot happened before the camera started recording.
“We were saying ‘Why did you do this? Why did you mess with this man?’” Laws’ cousin, Abraham Seaborne, Jr., recalled asking the deputy.
Seaborne was on his Smithfield Heights Drive porch when his cousin got into a confrontation with the deputy. The sheriff’s office said it started because Laws was walking down the middle of the street intoxicated. What happened next depends on who you ask.
The sheriff’s office said Laws became combative, and at one point, even choked the deputy.
“The deputy was thrown into the vehicle, which caused damage to the vehicle” said Isle of Wight Major James Clarke. “The deputy felt at that that time he had to break free and at that time he had to use the taser.”
“No, he didn’t touch him,” Seaborne said. “He didn’t’ touch him. The whole time the officer was the one who grabbed him and tried to hold him.”
But what isn’t up for debate are the actions on the cell phone video — the deputy has a stun gun in hand, Laws yells ‘tase me, tase me’ and the stun gun goes off. Laws goes limp and his head hits the ground. The impact caused a gash and required medical treatment.
“His head was bleeding so bad, it was just leaking,” said Laws’ daughter Deneke Hill. “It was sad to see.”
The sheriff’s office is reviewing the video and Major Clarke said by all indications proper protocol was used.
“It was very serious for this deputy,” Clarke added. “He had to make a decision to use the taser. The deputy did what he had to do for his safety.”
However, Laws’ family isn’t sure that’s the case.
“Something needs to be done,” Hill said. “We are going to keep on. We are going to do whatever we got to do.”
Laws is charged with assaulting an officer, strangulation, damaging a patrol car, public intoxication and disorderly conduct. He is being held in the Western Tidewater Regional Jail without bond.
WAVY.com did some digging into Laws’ criminal background. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and assault on a police officer in 2000. He also pleaded guilty to a possession of cocaine charge in 2010.