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'Accountability is starting to take effect' | Community groups react to officer charged in violent arrest

Activists say their divided community is closer to unity after an officer was charged for "breaking the law" during the arrest of a man in Rock Hill.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — After a historic decision to dismiss the charges in a controversial arrest, and instead arrest the officer at the center of the case, community members in Rock Hill say their divided city is a little more united now.

“I think accountability is starting to take effect,” said Regeena Tart, an activist in Rock Hill.

In June, police officers in Rock Hill arrested brothers Travis and Ricky Price after Ricky was suspected of having drugs in his car. The violent arrests were captured on cell phone, surveillance, and body-worn cameras.

Immediately after the arrests, protestors marched through the city challenging the use of force and the validity of the arrests.

RELATED: 11 people arrested following 2nd night of protests in Rock Hill

On Thursday, York County Solicitor Kevin Brackett announced the charge of hindering police against Travis Price was dismissed because it has no basis.

In the same news conference, the officer who arrested Price, Johnathan Moreno, was charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and booked into the Moss Justice Center. Investigators said Moreno "broke the law" when he forcefully shoved Price and threw him to the ground.

RELATED: Rock Hill officer fired, charged for wrongful arrest of Travis Price

Community activists called the decisions “unprecedented” but say there is still much work to be done.

“This ain’t gonna change anything,” said Maurice Sutter, the president of the Rock Hill chapter of Black Lives Matter.

Sutter said fear and lack of trust of police still haunt many members of the Black community, especially after they saw the viral videos. Sutter is calling on more community-based policing and strategies for officers and community members to improve their engagement and interactions.

“What happened to the Prices should never [have] happened,” Sutter said. “There’s a lot of work to do in the city of Rock Hill.”

Tart said community groups are now making plans to create more partnerships with city council members, police, and other leaders. She also challenged citizens to become more engaged in their communities through elections and civic participation.

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“We have to make sure we’re holding everyone accountable, not only the police,” Tart said. “Change is not going to be overnight, it’s going to take some time…. As long as we continue to stick together and not fight against each other then we will see a change.”

At a news conference Thursday, Rock Hill police chief Chris Watts said he plans to use the incident as a learning tool for the officers under his command but said there are no plans at this time to change any policies or procedures within the department.

Contact Tanya Mendis at tmendis@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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