Delaware police have released the dashboard camera video of a 2013 incident in which an officer kicked a suspect in the face, knocking him unconscious and breaking his jaw.
A grand jury initially declined to indict the officer, Dover Police Cpl. Thomas Webster, in March 2014, and Webster was allowed to return to full duty that June.
But on Monday, Webster was arrested on felony second-degree assault charges after a second grand jury was convened to review the case. Days later, Dover police released the dashboard camera video after a federal judge ruled that it was no longer confidential.
The video, recorded Aug. 24, 2013, shows a patrol car responding to a call about a fight at a Dover gas station that might have involved a weapon. Webster, who was already at the scene, had spotted Lateef Dickerson, 30, and stopped him.
In the video, Webster can be heard ordering Dickerson to get on the ground.
According to annotations on the video provided by the Dover Police Department, Webster attempted to “take [the] subject to the ground by taking his legs out.”
Dickerson appears to comply with the officer’s commands and moves toward the ground. Webster then kicks Dickerson in the face hard enough that the yellow hat he was wearing flew off of his head.
Dickerson said later that he was knocked unconscious by the blow. In the video, Webster is seen handcuffing Dickerson. The officer later transported Dickerson in the back of a police car to the hospital for treatment.
Dickerson said that he was at the Hess station that night buying gas when he became involved in a fight. The clerk threatened to call the police, and Dickerson and others involved left the station. He was stopped by Webster across the street from the gas station.
Dickerson was charged with assault, theft and resisting arrest, but those charges were later dropped, according to the News Journal.
Webster was placed on paid administrative leave while the department launched an internal investigation, Dover police said.
The Delaware attorney general’s office, then led by Beau Biden, also launched an investigation and later took the case to a grand jury, which declined to indict Webster. A separate review by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Delaware also found that Webster did not violate Dickerson’s civil rights.
In June, Webster was allowed to return to full duty.
But later that year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Webster and the City of Dover on Dickerson’s behalf, claiming that Webster’s use of force was “intentional, willful, and malicious battery” that violated Dickerson’s constitutional rights.
“There were no circumstances that justified such a use of force against [Dickerson],” the lawsuit stated. “Webster’s use of force against [Dickerson] was not necessary to effect a detention or arrest.”
Dover police acknowledged that there was video of the incident but declined to release it, saying it related to a personnel matter, according to the News Journal.
It wasn’t until earlier this year, after Delaware’s new attorney general Matt Denn took office, that the state decided to revisit the case.
“We thought that the evidence justified bringing it to the [second] grand jury, and the grand jury returned the indictment,” Denn said Tuesday according to the News Journal. “Our responsibility now is to make sure that the process is a fair one, and we’re going to do that.
A grand jury indicted him on assault charges, but Webster’s defenders — and his attorney — say the new charges are politically motivated.
“Tom Webster and his family are extremely disappointed this matter was again presented to a Kent County Grand Jury since a previous Grand Jury refused to indict Tom,” Webster’s lawyer, James E. Ligouri, told the News Journal in a statement.
Ligouri said that Webster was “defending us” from a “noted gang member.” Dickerson has a long criminal record, which includes several drug and alcohol convictions, according to the News Journal.
“The evidence presented before the first Grand Jury and the second Grand Jury hasn’t changed,” Ligouri noted. “The atmosphere has changed.”
Webster turned himself in Monday and was placed on leave without pay.