Video prompts internal police probe
Footage allegedly shows trooper striking teen
A video of a state trooper taking an Altoona runaway teen into custody has led to an internal state police investigation.
The minute-long video, posted by the father of a 14-year-old Altoona boy, shows troopers taking the teenager into custody and appears to show a trooper grab a hold of and strike the teenager in the face while the boy is
“An internal investigation is being conducted to determine the facts and circumstances around the video,” Trooper David McGarvey, spokesman for
Troop G in Hollidaysburg, said in a statement Friday.
The video starts off as the boy, Preston Weakland, is calmly and casually saying goodbye to his friends who are sitting in the bedroom of an Antis Township home, where state police went to retrieve Weakland on Wednesday night about midnight.
As the boy says goodbye to his friends, the trooper, whose identity has not been confirmed, picks up Weakland’s backpack and pulls out a pair of handcuffs.
“Put your hands behind your back,” the trooper tells Weakland, who replies, “I figured.”
The trooper puts the handcuffs on the boy, who stands about 5′ 8” tall and weighs about 140 pounds, and pats him down with one hand before the officer starts to walk the boy out of the room. Off-camera, a male juvenile asks, “Why did you guys handcuff him?”
A girl can be heard hushing the other boy as Weakland mutters, “Because he’s a p—y.”
It’s at this point the trooper pulls the boy back by his arm and grabs him by the shirt, bringing him close to the trooper’s face.
“What did you say? What did you say?” the visibly agitated trooper asks.
“Don’t get in my face like that,” Weakland says before the trooper raises his right hand, which is holding a flashlight, above the kid’s face.
Weakland moves to the right and the trooper appears to strike the boy in the face with the hand holding the flashlight.
“Don’t f—-ing hit me,” the trooper yells as the boy is pushed into a dresser and the other trooper appears in the frame.
“I didn’t hit you,” Weakland responds.
“Congratulations, you just got a felony,” one of the troopers is heard saying as the two officers grab Weakland and rush him out of the room.
Weakland’s mother, Tricia Reed, said the video was hard to watch. She said she was called by one of the troopers at 12:20 a.m. and told her son was at the Altoona Police Department, where she had reported him as being a runaway on Tuesday, and that he would be charged with a felony for allegedly headbutting a trooper.
“He was being compliant and it looks like that officer was instigating and antagonizing him,” Reed said. She said her son is at fault for running away, but the troopers actions are unacceptable.
“If he would have been home, none of this would have happened,” Reed said, adding her son did have a part in what happened, but what she saw was excessive.
Preston Weakland said Friday he did make the comment about the trooper that seemed to spark the confrontation, but up until that point everyone in the room was calm and he was doing what he was told, even though the officers never told him where they were going or why he was being handcuffed.
His father, Joe Weakland Jr., posted the video to his Facebook page to show some friends, and he said the interest it’s sparked has been overwhelming. A slowed-down clip of the video, as well as the original clip, have been posted to the Altoona and Surrounding Area Corruption Redux Facebook page, where commenters have parsed the details and argued on behalf of the boy and the trooper.
“Thank God he’s not injured — mentally, maybe,” Joe Weakland said.
His parents described Weakland as quiet and “a good kid” who has not been in any serious trouble, but has been defiant, and ran away because he doesn’t want to follow his mother’s rules.
Reed said she has contacted the ACLU and the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center and on Monday will meet with a local attorney to discuss what steps the family needs to take next in filing an official complaint with the state police.
“I want the officer held accountable and I want the charges dropped,”
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.