ROCK HILL, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — After seven months of waiting for a trial, the Price family wasn’t expecting to hear “not guilty.”

After the verdict was read, Travis Price walked out of the courtroom visibly upset. We caught up to his mother who was crying in the parking lot after trying to console her son.

“My son ain’t did nothin’ [sic]! I always told my son, I said ‘Whatever you do, don’t think you’re above the law.’ So, he thinks he’s above the law. He had my son’s face all down on that ground and stuff. Nobody cared when they gon’ [sic] start caring for our people, when are they going to start caring for us? My son was just beat down for no reason. No reason at all, he ain’t did nothin’ [sic],” says Price’s mother Liah told the media.

She says she doesn’t understand how the officers gave him permission to approach his brother but then allowed another officer to “rough him up.”

I asked Price how he felt about the verdict as he walked out of the courthouse, and he said he wasn’t happy about it, but his attorney advised him not to speak to the media.

Moments after the verdict was read former officer Jonathan Moreno and his family had a small hug while the judge addressed the courtroom. This is what he had to say afterwards:

“The last memory I have, I literally got the dinner break, and I ate lasagna with my 5-year-old and my boys at home and I kissed them and gave them a big hug and… It’s the energy that your kids give you and it makes you strive forward. I’ve been stressed for a long time, it’s been seven months going through this journey, but everybody has their own path,” he said.

Moreno says his police certification never expired, the only thing keeping him from policing was his pending charge. He doesn’t know just yet if he’ll return to a police department.

Moreno and Price sat through a two-day trial and a jury deliberation that lasted for 10 hours. Before the jury reached a verdict, they had two questions that prevented them from getting to a unanimous decision and ultimately the judge having to issue an “Allen charge.”

Queen City News Legal Correspondent Seema Iyer says she believes the jury was hung up on the use of force.

“The jury a bit because the jury has to put themselves in Moreno’s shoes and specifically just some random person on the street but as a police officer in that circumstance faced with Ricky Price a known criminal, a known danger in a chaotic situation and other officers involved an almost transferring his fear, his subjective fear of Ricky Price on to Travis Price whether that is warranted or not that is how Moreno felt in the moment and the jury was left to decide whether Moren’s actions based upon Moreno’s view were reasonable at that time.,” Iyer said.

Solicitor Kevin Brackett says he feels like his team offered the best defense they could, including every bit of evidence they had. He says he doesn’t know what else could’ve been done.

Price’s attorney, Justin Bamberg, says they will continue to fight for him through civil action. Bamberg released a statement to Queen City News after the verdict was read:

“While Travis Price is disappointed by this verdict, he respects the jury process.  We appreciate the efforts of Kevin Brackett and the Solicitor’s office but we are concerned about many things that came to light during trial.

Former Rock Hill police officer Jonathan Moreno admitted the official police report and use of force report were mostly inaccurate. Everyone testified that Travis was innocent, and that nobody escalated the situation that day aside from law enforcement. Given the high-profile nature of this incident, we can only imagine what might happen on a day-to-day basis with the Rock Hill Police Department regarding the truthfulness of their reports and record keeping.

Our concern is that other citizens don’t suffer the same mistreatment that Travis Price endured.  We will continue to fight for those who have been wrongly accused or subjected to excessive force and will push back against this department and any other who attempts to take advantage of those they are entrusted to protect and serve.

We will continue to fight for Mr. Price through our civil action against the Rock Hill Police Dept. and Congressman Ralph Norman. With clear testimony that nothing that was said about Travis was true, we wonder how much longer it will take for them to do the right thing.”


ORIGINAL STORY:

ROCK HILL, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Closing arguments wrapped on Tuesday in the trial of former Rock Hill police officer, Jonathan Moreno.

The jury left Tuesday afternoon and deliberations will officially begin at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, January 26. If convicted, Moreno faces a fine and 30 days in jail.

Moreno is accused of assaulting Travis Price, of Rock Hill, when Moreno and other officers were apprehending Travis’ brother, Ricky Price. Travis had come onto the scene saying he was there to help his brother.

In court this week, the fired officer apologized for attacking Travis Price seemingly without provocation during a traffic stop last year. On Monday, Moreno requested that the jury acquit him.

The 2021 incident roiled the City of Rock Hill after a bystander posted cell phone video to Facebook of Moreno and other officers wrestling with Price and his brother and forcing them to the ground, prompting several days of protests outside the city police station.

On Monday, Moreno and his attorneys suggested the ex-officer, who was fired two weeks after the incident, was the fall guy for the police department amid anger in the community: “He didn’t do anything wrong,” said attorney Creighton Coleman.

City officials had initially said police conducting a drug investigation had stopped Price’s brother for an illegal turn and that the brother had tried to run when officers removed his handcuffs so he could take off some jewelry to give to Price, who was also at the scene.

Police also said Price bumped officers and refused to move back when ordered. But two weeks later, officials said, authorities announced Moreno’s firing from the Rock Hill Police Department at a news conference where Moreno himself apologized for his conduct: “I’m here to be held accountable for my actions,” he said at the time.

Body camera and surveillance videos show Moreno in plain clothes approaching Price outside of a gas station. The videos depict Moreno grabbing Price by the chest and pushing him into a nearby propane tank before Moreno and other officers bring Price to the ground.

Pinning Price down, Moreno then yells at Price to fight with him.

“That day, I was roughhoused and treated unfairly for no reason,” Price testified.

Price told jurors that he was heading home to get ready for work that day when he saw police arresting his brother at the gas station along the way. Price then stopped and got permission from officers to take his brother’s jewelry and sunglasses. Prosecutors claimed that Moreno, who was searching the brother’s car as Price was receiving the belongings, ignored Price’s attempts to explain his presence at the scene and the other officers calling Moreno’s name.

But Moreno’s attorneys argued that the context in which Moreno responded was important: the then-officer was in a “high crime” area and had just confiscated marijuana and a gun from the brother’s car. Defense attorneys said Price’s brother was resisting arrest and helped create a scene of danger and chaos that Moreno was reacting to.

Moreno, who took the stand this week, testified that he was trying to subdue Price to secure the scene and ensure the safety of his fellow officers.

“I needed to make sure I had control of this scene,” Moreno said.

Brackett blamed a Homeland Security agent at the scene, who the solicitor said escalated the situation by antagonizing the brother, which then contributed to Moreno eventually assaulting Price.

Three Homeland Security agents called to court as witnesses refused to show up, said magistrate judge Michael Scurlock.

Due to the initial arrest and a subsequent night spent in jail, Price — a father of two with no criminal record — missed a shift at the chemical plant where he works, he testified. Prosecutors later dropped a resisting arrest charge Price faced.

“Some people think that bad interactions with law enforcement are only difficult for people when somebody dies, somebody gets shot or you have to have a funeral, and that’s not the case,” Justin Bamberg, Price’s attorney, told reporters outside the courthouse Monday. “It’s tough for minorities, in particular, to watch things happen like what happened to Travis.”

Moreno has been charged with third-degree assault and battery for his alleged involvement.

During Wednesday’s deliberations, the jury may struggle most with ‘the use of force instruction.’ Seema Iyer, esq. explains above exactly what they have to decide when evaluating Moreno’s actions moving forward.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.