SARASOTA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The Sarasota Police Department has opened an internal affairs investigation into the arrest of a man with limited mental capacity.
A video of the arrest has been viewed tens of thousands of times on social media. Critics say police used excessive force, but arresting officers say the man would not comply with commands, instead appearing to reach under the seat of the car he was in.
Govinda Howell, 40, was reaching under the seat of a car and did not follow their commands.
The video, which has been seen around 25,000 times on social media, opens with the incident already underway. Officers were trying to place 40-year-old Govinda Howell under arrest.
Shareka Priester recorded video of the arrest, which happened near the intersection of 23rd Street and Maple Avenue.
"Don't hurt him," witnesses can be heard yelling.
But witnesses also yelled for Howell to "relax" as police took him down.
"He's handicapped," said one witness.
Police say Howell had been in the back seat of a car that had just picked up two passengers a block away, at 23rd Street and Osprey Avenue.
Officers say the vehicle then drove the wrong way in the eastbound lanes of Maple Avenue, running a stop sign before being pulled over by police.
They pulled Howell out after they say he was reaching under the seat in front of him and disobeyed commands to show his hands.
In an arrest affidavit, police wrote Howell appeared to be under the influence, was agitated, and tried to pull away.
The video captures the ensuing chaos, with multiple officers holding him down.
Officers wrote they saw him trying to chew and swallow something, possibly drugs.
Priester says several witnesses at the scene know Howell. They said his disability would make following those commands.
At one point, an officer said he appreciated a witness who told them they were trying to get Howell to stop resisting.
Howell was arrested and hospitalized. His condition was not known.
Priester and her cousin, Jason Bradley, who also witnessed the arrest, say several of the officers were heavy-handed.
"I feel that the officers were trying to get him under control, but a few of them were not doing the right thing as they were in there," said Bradley.
The Sarasota NAACP released a statement saying its officials "have been contacted and spoken with parties involved concerning the alleged excessive force arrest... The NAACP is gathering the facts and has requested a thorough investigation. If wrongdoing is found, it must be held accountable."
Howell was arrested for resisting without violence.
"I want justice," said Bradley. "The cops that were out here doing wrong, for something to, I don't want to say jail or anything, but basically something has to happen."
The driver was given a traffic ticket for driving in the wrong lane.
FOX 13 News tried to contact family members of Howell to learn more about him and any possible medical conditions or disabilities that may have impacted his behavior.