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Posted at 04:43 PM ET, 10/22/2011

Metro transit police will not face federal civil rights charges involving May wheelchair arrest

The Justice Department said Saturday that it will not file civil rights charges against two Metro transit police officers for actions they took during a May arrest of a man in a wheelchair that was widely disseminated on YouTube.

The two-minute video, authorities said, captured a May 19 incident in which the officers, who have not been named, arrested Dwight Harris on charges of assault on an officer and drinking in public.

At the time of the incident, Metro said in a statement that the officers were on patrol at the U Street/ African-American Civil War Memorial/ Cardozo Metro station in Northwest Washington and spotted Harris drinking an alcoholic beverage.

The officers lifted Harris off his motorized chair and later stood over him as he was on the ground, the video showed.

Days after the video was published, the District’s Attorney General’s Office dropped the drinking charge, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped the assault charge and said it would look into the matter. In a statement Saturday, DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges against the officers.

Hinojosa said investigators interviewed witnesses and reviewed training records, video evidence and medical reports.

“Accident, mistake, fear, negligence or bad judgment are not sufficient to establish such a criminal violation,” she added.

At the time, Metro said Harris had refused to leave, “refused to comply” to a police citation and resisted arrest. The resisting of arrest “resulted in him falling out of his wheelchair,” Metro said.

Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman, said Saturday that the two officers were put on administrative duty after the incident but have been reinstated to patrol following the DOJ decision.

Metro is completing an internal view of its arrest procedures and may plan additional police training, Stessel said.

By  |  04:43 PM ET, 10/22/2011

 
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