The Texas police officer who resigned after a controversial video showed him forcefully handcuffing and drawing his gun on a group of black teenagers at a pool party “allowed his emotions to get the better of him,” his attorney said Wednesday.
McKinney Police Cpl. Eric Casebolt had responded to two suicide calls before responding to a call of possible violent assaults at the pool party Friday, his attorney Jane Bishkin said at a news conference.
“With all that had happened that day, he allowed his emotions to get the better of him,” she said. “Eric regrets his conduct portrayed him and his department in a negative light. He never intended to mistreat anyone.”
The video captured a chaotic scene that grew increasingly tense when Casebolt, who is white, pushed a teenage girl onto a sidewalk before using his body weight to push her head toward the concrete. He was also seen pulling her hair.
Casebolt had been under investigation when he “resigned on his own will,” Police Chief Greg Conley said Tuesday, calling his actions “indefensible.”
“As the video shows, he was out of control during the incident,” Conley said, adding, “I do not condone the actions of those individuals who violated the rules of the community and showed disrespect to the security personnel on the scene and officers.”
Civil rights groups on Wednesday said Casebolt’s resignation was not sufficient, and called for criminal charges to be filed against him, the Dallas Morning News reported. A decision hasn’t been yet made on any possible charges, Conley said, according to the Associated Press.
“These children had [a] right to be on this property. Their civil rights were violated, and we want this officer charged,” Next Generation Action Network president Minister Dominique Alexander said. He called Casebolt’s actions racially-motivated.
A lawyer representing Dajerria Becton, the bikini-clad teenager who Casebolt is shown forcing to the ground, said Wednesday that her client’s civil rights were violated and that Becton hasn’t left her house much since the incident and ensuing media attention.
“She’s having a hard time sleeping and a hard time eating,” attorney Hannah Stroud told reporters Wednesday.
Stroud also said while Casebolt’s resignation shouldn’t signal the end of the investigation, it’s not clear yet whether Becton will file a formal complaint, the Morning News reported. “The manner in which Ms. Becton was treated was excessive, inappropriate and without cause,” Stroud said.
McKinney has become another flash point in the ongoing national debate, increasingly fueled by video footage, over police brutality and race.
Two dueling narratives have since emerged in the master-planned community. On one side are those who say the video is a clear example of excessive force escalating a situation beyond control and of officers harassing young African Americans. Others, however, say race played no role in the situation and that officers in McKinney struggled to keep an unruly group of teens under control.
Bishkin said the video “only depicts a small part of Eric’s actions that day” and that he wasn’t targeting minorities, but trying to interview as many people as possible.
Casebolt had earlier responded to a call of an African American man who had committed suicide in front of his family, Bishkin said. Then he helped calm a teenage girl threatening to commit suicide by jumping from her parents’ roof, the lawyer added.
“The nature of these two suicide calls took an emotional toll on Eric Casebolt,” Bishkin said. “They serve as a reminder that while police work is often dangerous, it is fraught with emotions and family tragedy.”
Bishkin, told the AP Tuesday that her client has received death threats and she declined to say where he is currently located.
A 10-year veteran of the McKinney Police Department, Casebolt had been on administrative leave since Friday’s incident, which caused an uproar when video of the confrontation was uploaded to YouTube.
Police have dropped charges against Adrian Martin, the 18-year-old who was the only individual arrested during Friday’s incident, Conley said Tuesday.
Protesters took to the streets Monday in McKinney, a suburban community about 40 miles north of Dallas, calling for Casebolt’s firing and for charges to be brought against him. Some wielded signs reading “My skin color is not a crime,” AP reported.
“I don’t excuse the behavior of those teenagers, but if I call 911, then I wouldn’t want that cop to respond,” Nikki Perez, a black resident, told AP. “He blew his credibility when he opened his mouth and started cursing at the kids.”
Casebolt served as a vice president of McKinney’s police union, according to the group’s Facebook page, which has since been taken down. He also received an award for “Patrolman of the Year” in 2008, according to the McKinney Courier-Gazette.
“Prior to that,” the Morning News reported, “he served almost two years as a state trooper, according to records from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Casebolt took eight hours of cultural diversity training at Collin County Community College in February 2009, and has also taken courses in racial profiling and use of force.”
This post, originally published June 9, has been updated multiple times. An original version misspelled the name of lawyer Jane Bishkin.