The man seen struggling with Folly Beach police officers on a controversial video insists that the images are not what they seem.
Erik Torgusen became an unwitting YouTube star this week after a beachgoer videotaped police officers trying to handcuff him on the beach Sunday while a large crowd shouts questions and jeers.
Torgusen, who was arrested for disorderly conduct, can be heard yelling “I am not resisting” while he appears to be doing just that.
The video, which had more than 6,000 views by Thursday, has drawn condemnation and praise of island police. Torgusen said the whole episode is just one big misunderstanding.
The Charleston-based bouncer, 31, denied that he resisted arrest, and maintained that he did nothing wrong that day. He said he is seen squirming and thrashing about on tape because his eyes were on fire from pepper spray and he couldn’t breathe.
“It looks like I’m trying to resist but I’m not,” Torgusen said Thursday. “I was in pain. I had pepper spray in my eyes. I had sand in my eyes, and I can’t see anything.”
Folly Beach Public Safety Director Dennis Brown did not return a call seeking comment. But he did finally release a report on the incident, one day after The Post and Courier informed him that his refusal to do so was in violation of the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
The report contained much of the same information Brown had provided Wednesday in a verbal account of the incident, explaining how police came to arrest Torgusen and a friend, 28-year-old Brett Ricker of Charleston.
Ricker also was shot with a Taser stun gun after he reportedly became combative with a Charleston County sheriff’s deputy while using a cellphone camera to videotape Torgusen’s arrest.
Police said the episode began with officers responding to unruly behavior by three men heard cursing and screaming at The Tides hotel.
Torgusen allegedly acted aggressively, ignored an officer’s warnings and made “racially suggestive remarks” toward Folly Beach Cpl. Ryland Reed, who is black, according to a police report.
Police said Torgusen was intoxicated, wouldn’t give Reed his name and told the officer “I will deal with you” at one point during the confrontation. Torgusen then struggled with Reed when the officer went to place him in handcuffs, police said.
Torgusen offered a much different account.
He said he was in a bathroom at The Tides when Reed kicked open the door, apparently in search of two men who were urinating in a sink. Torgusen said he didn’t know the two men and he wasn’t doing anything wrong. “That had nothing to do with me,” he said.
Torgusen said he didn’t have his glasses on and didn’t realize at first that Reed was a police officer. All he saw was a blurry man in a blue polo shirt.
He said he moved closer to get a better look at Reed, and the officer misinterpreted that as him being aggressive.
Torgusen said he never threatened the officer, became aggressive or used racial slurs. He said he is half black and half Brazilian, and he would never speak in a prejudicial manner.
“The whole racial slur thing, that must have been a fabrication of his imagination,” he said. “I’m not the type of guy who ever goes that route.”
Torgusen acknowledged that he didn’t readily supply his name and identification, because he felt he had done nothing wrong. “I said ‘I am not giving you my name unless you give me a reason for the ticket,’?” he said. “That’s when he slapped the cuffs on me and we fell to the ground.”
Torgusen said he initially couldn’t bring his arm around to the other cuff because it was pinned under his body with the officer on top of him.
The police report said Torgusen actively struggled and tried to pull away, requiring Reed to blast him with pepper spray. Torgusen said Reed shot three blasts of the spray into his face, and he was left bruised by the officer’s manhandling of him.
Torgusen is scheduled to appear in Folly Beach Municipal Court this morning to answer to charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. His friend, Ricker, was arrested by sheriff’s deputies and will appear in a magistrate court at a later date.
Ricker was videotaping the incident, and the YouTube footage shows him getting close to Reed and Torgusen during the struggle. Authorities said Ricker became combative and refused to obey a deputy’s order for him to step back.
Folly Beach Public Safety Officer Ralph Bryan then reportedly shot Ricker with the Taser, delivering a three-second jolt of electricity.
Ricker, who is charged with disorderly conduct, could not be reached for comment Thursday. His attorney, Thomas Rode, said he is still gathering facts in the case and trying to determine why a Taser was used on his client. That part of the incident was not captured on the YouTube video.
“To me, it doesn’t look like he was doing anything wrong,” Rode said.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.