Note: This story appears in the Thursday, Oct. 3 newspaper on page A1.
Following a recent arrest on Court Street that has gone viral online, a Coffee with a Cop event that had been planned for Wednesday at Donkey Coffee and Espresso was postponed.
A related event will instead be held next Tuesday, Oct. 8 from 7-9 p.m. at Athena Cinema theater to accommodate a larger crowd that was expected to attend. It will feature members of the Joint Police Advisory Council along with other officials from Ohio University.
The controversy involves the arrest of Ty Patrick Bealer, 21, of Columbus, which occurred early Sunday morning outside of a Court Street bar. He has since pleaded innocent in Athens Municipal Court to misdemeanor charges of obstructing official business and resisting arrest.
Athens police have alleged Bealer fought with staff at The J Bar and was kicked out, but later returned. Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said officers were called, and that bar staff pointed out the man to them.
A video showing a portion of the arrest was posted to Twitter the following morning, and has accumulated more than 500,000 views since then. The video shows three Athens police officers arresting Bealer, with one holding his head down.
A police TASER was deployed during the arrest, Pyle later said, adding that Bealer received medical treatment for the TASER barb wound and for another “small abrasion” to the hand.
Bealer was unarmed during the incident.
At Monday’s news conference, Pyle dismissed allegations the arrest was racially focused.
Pyle said the video only “catches the tail end of the incident,” and that police were reviewing other video taken before police arrived.
“I can say ... the commentary is without context and the allegations are completely baseless,” he said of social media posts made in response to the arrest.
He also emphasized that Athens police conducted the arrest, and that Ohio University police officers were not involved. Some on Twitter and Facebook have conflated the two law enforcement agencies. In one such instance, a statement issued by the Ohio University Student Senate president condemned OU and its police department for not having commented on the arrest, despite them not having been involved. Also, Bealer is not an OU student.
Critics saw the already-planned Coffee with a Cop event as an opportunity to ask further questions about the incident.
A Facebook event titled, ”Make APD Answer for Racism!,” had encouraged people to attend the Wednesday event at Donkey. The event description said people should “make sure they have to answer for their latest incident of racist police violence against an unarmed Black man.” It also called for APD to fire the officers involved.
Though the event was canceled, some protesters took to the Athens County Courthouse on Wednesday morning. Among those present was Ellie Hamrick, an independent socialist candidate for Athens City Council, who carried a sign reading, “No justice no peace! No racist police!”
Hamrick noted that the protest was organized by the Athens Revolutionary Socialists group, of which she is a member. She said the group had several demands, including that police release the other videos mentioned by Chief Pyle and that the charges against Bealer be dropped.
Pyle has said the other videos cannot be made public while an investigation is ongoing.
The event planned for next Tuesday at the Athena Cinema will serve as an “Ask the Chiefs” forum.
“In light of recent events that have generated significant interest with concerned citizens wishing to attend the Coffee with a Cop event ... we believe it would be best to temporarily postpone the event until a larger, more suitable venue can be secured,” Pyle wrote in a news release.
The event will feature the Joint Police Advisory Council, Ohio University’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion, the Black Student Cultural Programming Board, the NAACP at OU, the Black Student Union and the National Pan-Hellenic Council. It will be open to the public.
Messenger staff journalist Heather Willard and WOUB News contributed to this report.