Lawyer: Officer Didn’t Target Black Teens at Texas Pool

Lawyer: Officer Didn’t Target Black Teens at Texas Pool

Demonstrators gather near a community pool Monday, June 8, 2015, during a protest in response to an incident at the pool involving McKinney police officers  in McKinney, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Demonstrators gather near a community pool Monday, June 8, 2015, during a protest in response to an incident at the pool involving McKinney police officers in McKinney, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

DAVID WARREN, Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — A white Texas police officer was not targeting minorities when he wrestled a black teenage girl to the ground and brandished his gun outside a pool party, his lawyer said, but rather was fraught with emotion after responding earlier to two suicide calls.

Phone videos taken by people at the pool show the officer running after black teens and ordering them to the ground, then forcing the teen girl onto her stomach and placing his knees on her back. At one point, he drew his firearm after two young black men charged forward in apparent protest of the girl’s treatment but holstered the weapon when two other officers intervened. The incident was the latest to prompt protests against police treatment of African-Americans.

As activists demanded Wednesday that prosecutors charge former officer David Eric Casebolt, his attorney Jane Bishkin said Casebolt apologizes for his treatment of the girl and to others offended by his actions Friday at a community pool in the Dallas suburb of McKinney.

“With all that happened that day, he allowed his emotions to get the better of him,” Bishkin said of her client, who is known to friends and family as Eric.

However, the attorney for Dajerria Becton, the 15-year-old girl whom Casebolt subdued, said that while her client’s family appreciated Casebolt’s apology, his stress is not an adequate defense.

“There are appropriate ways to handle stress, and Officer Casebolt’s actions were in no way appropriate,” Hannah Stroud said Wednesday. Stroud also said the family will not decide on a next step until she and the city have completed their fact-finding, but they believe excessive force violated Dajerria’s civil rights.

Casebolt’s first call that day was to an apartment complex where a man had fatally shot himself in front of his wife and children, Bishkin said. The former officer of the year, who resigned Tuesday, then went to a home where a teenager was threatening to kill herself by jumping from the roof of her parents’ home.

Police say officers were responding to reports of teens unauthorized to use the pool who were jumping a fence to gain entry. Residents of the middle-class neighborhood have said teens attending an end-of-school party at the pool and adjacent park were acting unruly.

Local and national civil rights groups held a protest Wednesday in front of the McKinney Police Department, asking that prosecutors charge the 41-year-old ex-corporal for his actions. Police Chief Greg Conley has called his actions “indefensible.”

Grand juries too often have sided with police accounts of violent encounters with minorities, according to Pamela Meanes, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Bar Association, America’s oldest association of predominantly black lawyers and judges. That pattern has changed with the proliferation of mobile phones, she told media.

Bishkin said Casebolt was “not targeting minorities,” adding, “he also detained a white female, who you do not see on the video.”

The protesters did not specify what charge should be filed against Casebolt, but Heath Harris, a former Dallas County prosecutor who’s representing the one person charged in the fracas, said video appears to show Casebolt could be accused of a misdemeanor count of official oppression, which covers the mistreatment or unlawful detention of people by a public servant. The Collin County district attorney’s office did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Bishkin said death threats against Casebolt have forced him and his family to leave their home for an undisclosed location.

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