Teenager Sues Over Viral Pool-Party Takedown

January 4, 2017
By David Lee

SHERMAN, Texas (CN) – An unarmed, black teenage girl who cried in a viral video as she was pinned to the ground by a white police officer at a Texas pool party claims the former officer’s use of force was excessive.

Dajerria Becton and her mother, Shashona Becton, sued the city of McKinney, its police department and former police officer David Eric Casebolt in Sherman, Texas, federal court on Dec. 19. The younger Becton is referred to as D.B. in the lawsuit but has been named in news reports.

A predominantly white and affluent suburb of Dallas, McKinney was thrust into the national debate on race and police when the seven-minute video was posted on YouTube in 2015. Casebolt and 11 other officers are shown responding to a call about fights and uninvited guests at a privately owned community swimming pool at the Craig Ranch master-planned community.

Casebolt is shown wrestling an unarmed and bikini-clad Becton to the ground as other teenagers cry and scream around them. Casebolt is shown unholstering his service weapon and appears to point it at two black male teenagers closest to him, who run away. Casebolt then reholsters his gun and pins a screaming Becton to the ground with his knees as she repeatedly asked for her mother.

Casebolt resigned and apologized within days, ending investigations by the police department and city manager. He denied racism played a role in the arrest, citing the stress of responding to two suicide calls earlier in the day.

Police referred the case to the Texas Rangers for further investigation, who presented their findings to a Collin County grand jury that declined to indict Casebolt last June.

Becton’s lawsuit claims she sustained injuries to her back, neck and arms in the incident. She was 15 years old at the time.

“Defendant Casebolt had no probably cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that [Becton] was or had committed a crime,” the 15-page complaint states. “In fact, there are eyewitnesses to the entire incident who did not see D.B. breaking any laws prior to being physically assaulted by defendant Casebolt.”

Becton claims the city and police have a record of not adequately training their cops to prevent the use of excessive force “especially as it relates to youthful offenders.”

“Upon information and belief, MPD officers are trained by individuals with little or no experience working in the field,” the complaint states.

City officials disputed the lawsuit’s claims and said it will “vigorously defend” itself.

“McKinney prides itself in cultivating the highest standards of training and professionalism for our officers, and it strongly believes that its standards and training will withstand legal challenge,” the city said in a statement Tuesday.

Becton seeks actual and punitive damages for claims of excessive force, failure to train, false arrest, negligence, gross negligence, assault and battery. She is represented by Kim T. Cole in Frisco, Texas.

Cole told reporters Wednesday afternoon she did not announce the filing of the lawsuit last month to spare her client from backlash on social media and disruption of her personal life.

“I want to keep her away from all the cyberbullying that has occurred with this case,” Cole said at a press conference. “I would ask members of the media – regardless of your opinion or your take on what transpired – to be respectful of the fact that she is a child. All of this has a tremendous impact on her existence.”

Cole said Becton has received “tremendous” backlash online from racists, strangers and people from her school.

“It has had a detrimental effect on her,” the attorney said. “She is naturally shy … to constantly hear all these negative things from people who don’t even know her, who have never met her, definitely has an impact on her self-esteem and security.”

Cole called the girl’s case a “textbook excessive force” claim.

“The officer slammed her on the ground, sat on her, put his knee on her neck and was constantly slamming her face into the ground,” she said. “It’s pretty cut and dry.”

In response to the city’s statements, Cole reminded reporters that McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley stated after the incident that Casebolt’s actions were “indefensible.”

“How do you defend the indefensible?” Cole asked incredulously.

From Courthouse News.

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Grand Jury Clears Former Cop in Pool Incident

June 23, 2016
By David Lee
McKINNEY, Texas (CN) – A North Texas grand jury declined Thursday to indict a white police officer who pulled a gun on unarmed black teenagers at a pool party last year in a viral video that led to his resignation.
A Collin County grand jury “no billed” former McKinney police officer Eric Casebolt, police officials confirmed.
The predominantly white and affluent suburb was thrust into the national debate on race and police after a seven-minute video was posted on YouTube a year ago. It shows Casebolt and 11 other officers responding to a call of fights and uninvited guests at a privately owned community swimming pool at the Craig Ranch master-planned community.
Casebolt is seen wrestling Dajerria Becton, a 15-year-old black girl, to the ground. Several teenagers cry and scream while surrounding Casebolt, who unholsters his service weapon and appears to point it at the two black male teenagers closest to him, who run away.
Casebolt then reholsters his gun and pins the screaming girl to the ground with his knees. She can be heard repeatedly asking for her mother.
Casbolt resigned and apologized for his actions several days later, ending investigations by the police department and city manager. He blamed the stress of responding to two suicide calls earlier that day, and denied racism played a role.
Several of the teenagers filed administrative complaints against Casebolt, accusing him of using excessive force.
McKinney police say the incident was later referred to the Texas Rangers for further investigation.
“The Rangers concluded their investigation and presented it to the Collin County District Attorney’s Office,” public information officer Sabrina Boston said Thursday. “On Thursday, June 23, the District Attorney’s office presented the findings of the Rangers’ investigation to a grand jury.”
The case was presented to the grand jury weeks after Becton and her attorney demanded movement in the case on the incident’s one-year anniversary.
“People still talk about it, they say rude things,” Becton said at a news conference at police headquarters on June 7. “But I am doing really fine.”
Becton’s attorney, Kim T. Cole of Dallas, said Casebolt “must be held accountable to send a message that this is not acceptable.”
Casebolt’s attorney, Tom Mills of Dallas, said Thursday his client wanted the case resolved before looking for work again.
“He was relieved and glad that the Rangers had done the thorough investigation that they did,” Mills told The Dallas Morning News.
McKinney police plan to hold a community forum on Monday with community leaders to discuss moving forward from the incident.

From Courthouse News.

McKinney Tears Up Its $79,000 FOIA Bill and Apologizes

July 3, 2015
By David Lee
McKINNEY, Texas (CN) – McKinney officials apologized for charging $79,000 to fulfill a media request for records concerning the white police officer who pulled a gun on black teenagers, and was filmed doing it.
McKinney spokeswoman Anna Clark apologized to Gawker Media on Wednesday, which filed a Public Information Act request for former police Cpl. Eric Casebolt’s records and email messages on his past conduct.
“The number quoted to you as a cost estimate for your records request is not accurate,” Clark wrote. “We sincerely apologize for the misinformation and the ensuing confusion, and we agree that the cost of more than $79,000 is at best implausible.”
Attorney Lisa Mares, with Brown Hofmeister in Richardson, had responded to Gawker’s request by saying the city would need to hire a programmer to spend 2,231 hours searching email at $28.50 per hour. Gawker called the bill ridiculous.
“Given the stratospheric total number – and the fact that nearly every email client on the planet has some sort of search function – it’s hard to read the letter as anything other than a deliberate attempt to conceal information. We’ll be filing an appeal,” Gawker said Monday.
Clark said the cost estimate was a “mistake” and “should never have been communicated to you.”
“Please know we are working diligently to come to a reasonable and accurate estimate based on your request,” she wrote. “While many requests regarding this incident, including yours, are voluminous, in no way would the city presume to charge such an exorbitant fee.”
She said the city will send Gawker a revised estimate.
An affluent suburb north of Dallas, McKinney was thrust into the national race debate after a 7-minute video was uploaded to YouTube on June 6. It shows Casebolt and 11 other officers responding to calls of fights and uninvited guests at a privately owned community swimming pool at the Craig Ranch master planned community.
Casebolt is shown screaming profanity at black male teenagers, telling them to get on the ground, and yelling at teenage girls to leave.
Casebolt wrestles 15-year-old Dajerria Becton of McKinney to the ground. Several teenagers cry and scream while surrounding Casebolt, who unholsters his service weapon and appears to point it at the two black male teenagers closest to him, who run away. Casebolt then reholsters his gun and pins the screaming girl to the ground with his knees. She can be heard repeatedly asking for her mother.
Casebolt resigned on June 9. He apologized for his actions, which ended investigations by the police department and city manager. He blamed the stress of responding to two suicide calls earlier that day – not racism – for his response.
At least six of the teenagers have filed administrative complaints with the city, claiming Casebolt used excessive force.

From Courthouse News.

McKinney Wants $79,000 for Records of Pool Party Cop

July 1, 2015
By David Lee
McKINNEY, Texas (CN) – A Dallas suburb is demanding $79,000 for records on the white police officer who was filmed pulling his gun on black teenagers in an incident that made national headlines.
Gawker Media said on Monday it filed a Public Information Act request with McKinney for records on former police Cpl. Eric Casebolt, including messages regarding his conduct.
Casebolt resigned on June 9, shortly after the video went viral. He denied that race had anything to do with how he acted.
Gawker said in a statement: “Given the stratospheric total number – and the fact that nearly every email client on the planet has some sort of search function – it’s hard to read the letter as anything other than a deliberate attempt to conceal information. We’ll be filing an appeal.”
A 7-minute video uploaded to YouTube on June 6 shows Casebolt and 11 otherofficers responding to calls of fights and uninvited guests at a privately owned community swimming pool at the Craig Ranch master planned community.
It shows Casebolt screaming profanity at black male teenagers, telling them to get on the ground, while he repeatedly yells at a group of teenage girls to leave.
Casebolt wrestles 15-year-old Dajerria Becton of McKinney to the ground. Several teenagers are shown crying and screaming while surrounding Casebolt, who unholsters his service weapon and appears to point it at the two black male teenagers closest to him, who run away. Casebolt then reholsters his gun and pins the screaming girl to the ground with his knees. She can be heard repeatedly asking for her mother.
Casebolt apologized for his actions, ending investigations by the police department and city manager. He blamed the stress of responding to two suicide calls earlier that day – not racism – for his response.
At least six of the teenagers have filed administrative complaints with the city, claiming Casebolt used excessive force.
Gawker, wondering aloud whether McKinney is “still corresponding via telegram,” said the city’s bill was out of line.
“The city arrived at that extraordinary figure after estimating that hiring a programmer to execute the grueling and complex task of searching through old emails would cost $28.50 per hour, and that the search for emails about Casebolt would take 2,231 hours of said programmer’s time,” Gawker said.
“That only comes to about $63,000; the bill also includes $14,726 to cover the actual time a computer resource takes to execute a particular program.”
Gawker requested all emails regarding Casebolt’s conduct since 2005, when he was hired.
“According to the letter, emails maintained by the city before March 1, 2014, ‘are not in a format that is searchable by city personnel,’ and making the emails searchable would require ‘programming personnel to execute an existing program or to create a new program so that requested information may be accessed and copied,'” Gawker said.
McKinney’s attorney Lisa Mares, with Brown Hofmeister in Richardson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon. In her letter responding to Gawker’s request, Mares said there may be a cheaper way to get the information.
“For instance, if you limit the scope of your request from an approximate 9 years and 10-month time period to the 2014-2015 time period and identify the city employees whose e-mail accounts must be searched, the city can conduct a more focused search for the requested information, which will reduce the anticipated costs for obtaining the information you seek,” the 3-page letter dated June 22 stated.

From Courthouse News.

McKinney Teens File Misconduct Complaint as White Woman Responds

June 22, 2015
By David Lee
MCKINNEY, Texas (CN) – Six black teenagers have filed administrative complaints against the white police officer who drew his gun at a fracas outside a McKinney, Texas, pool party as the white woman featured in a viral video speaks out.
YouTube video postings of the June 5 incident have been viewed more than 1 million times. McKinney police Cpl. Eric Casebolt resigned two days after the incident, and denied later that race had anything to do with it. Peaceful demonstrators have continued to demand a criminal indictment.
Attorneys Darrell Jordan and Kwame Thompson said Friday they have filed misconduct complaints with the McKinney Police Department on behalf of the families of Jordan Gray, Jayden Gray, Ladariene McKever, Jahda Bakari, Dajah Bakari and Maxwell Hudson.
A 7-minute video uploaded to YouTube on June 6 shows Casebolt and 11 other officers responding to calls of fights and uninvited guests at a privately owned community swimming pool at the Craig Ranch master planned community.
The video quickly went viral and brought national attention to the Dallas suburb. It shows Casebolt screaming profanity at black male teenagers, telling them to get on the ground, while he repeatedly yells at a group of teenage girls to leave.
He is shown wrestling Dajerria Becton, 15, of McKinney, to the ground. Several teenagers are shown crying and screaming while surrounding Casebolt, who unholsters his service weapon and appears to point it at the two black male teenagers closest to him, who run away.
Casebolt then reholsters his gun and pins the screaming girl to the ground with his knees. She can be heard repeatedly asking for her mother.
“We will not rest, stop or back down until former officer Casebolt is arrested, tried and convicted of his crimes against the children of McKinney,” attorney Thompson said.
Thompson said his primary goal is to “ensure the safety of the students” and to “prevent any further injustices against them.” He says his clients were “assaulted, battered and emotionally distressed” by Casebolt.
“Violence against children is unacceptable,” he said.
The families are not planning to sue, but that could change, the attorneys said.
On June 16, a white McKinney resident who appeared in a second video of a fight at the pool party denied she was racist. Tracy Carver told reporters in Los Angeles that she was trying to defuse the fight involving her friend.
“I did not beat anyone, nor did I use racial slurs of any kind,” Carver said at a news conference. “I was trying to separate my friend from someone who was pulling her hair. The fact that I’ve had to relocate my family for their safety has made me physically ill.”
Carver’s attorney Gloria Allred told reporters that false accusations against Carver led to death threats that forced her to go into hiding.
“She is speaking out for the first time in California because she feels that she is unable to return home in Texas because of the false rumor that she is a racist,” Allred said. “The threats include threats to rape and kill her children and to rape and kill Tracy. I’m unable to repeat some of these threats because of the obscenities and profanity. However, Tracy has made law enforcement aware of the threats of bodily harm.”
Allred said the viral video is “incomplete” because it shows only part of what happened at the party.
Carver said many of the teens at the pool party “became irate” when they were denied entry because they lacked the required access keycards. The party was at a private pool owned and operated by a homeowner’s association that restricts the number of guests allowed.
Carver said that as she and her family tried to leave the pool, several teenagers shouted “go home, bye-bye black haters” at them.
“It was nearly impossible to exit the gate because it was three rows deep with unruly, disrespectful teens and young adults,” she said. “Once I was able to get out of the gate, a teen was screaming racist slurs at me and a visiting friend, saying, ‘This is a public pool.’ In response, my friend said, ‘This is not a public pool. People pay community dues to use this pool.'”
Carver said the incident was not about race, but about following community rules about keycards and a maximum of two guests per person.

From Courthouse News.

Texas Officer Apologizes, Denies Race Was a Factor

June 11, 2015
By David Lee
MCKINNEY, Texas (CN) – A white police officer apologized for pulling a gun on black teenagers at a pool party but is “disgusted” at accusations he was racially motivated, his attorney said Wednesday.
Former McKinney police Cpl. Eric Casebolt’s attorney Jane Bishkin told reporters her client “allowed his emotions to get the best of him” in the June 5 incident that has been viewed 270,000 times since it was posted on YouTube.
Casebolt resigned Tuesday, two days after he was placed on administrative leave. The city and police department are both investigating. He could face criminal charges.
“Eric regrets that his conduct portrayed him and his department in a negative light,” Bishkin said at the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police on Wednesday afternoon.
“He never intended to mistreat anyone, but was only reacting to a situation and the challenges it presented. He apologizes to all he offended.”
A 7-minute video uploaded to YouTube shows Casebolt and 11 other officers responding to calls of fights and uninvited guests at a privately owned community swimming pool at the Craig Ranch master planned community.
The video quickly went viral and brought national attention to the Dallas suburb. It shows Casebolt screaming profanity at the black male teenagers, telling them to get on the ground, while he repeatedly yells at a group of teenage girls to leave.
He is shown wrestling black teenager Dajerria Becton, 15, of McKinney, to the ground. Several teenagers are shown crying and screaming while surrounding Casebolt, who unholsters his service weapon and appears to point it at the two black male teenagers closest to him, who run away.
Casebolt then reholsters his gun and pins the screaming girl to the ground with his knees. She can be heard repeatedly asking for her mother.
Bishkin said her client resigned from the force “with a heavy heart,” and hoped it would encourage a “cooperative relationship” between police and citizens.
She said the video showed only a small part of Casebolt’s shift that night, and that he was dealing with the stress of responding to two earlier suicide calls.
Bishkin said that on one call Casebolt talked a teenage girl out of jumping from the roof of a building.
“The nature of these two suicide calls took an emotional toll on him,” Bishkin said.
She said Casebolt was trying to identify and interview people who may have witnessed an assault, and that the people who ran could have been suspects.
Some media outlets reported that several black teenagers who were denied entry to the pool jumped the fence, and that white parents told them they were not welcome, with one woman telling them to “go back to your Section 8” housing.
“He was not targeting minorities,” Bishkin said. “In fact, he also detained a white female not seen on the video.”
Bishkin said Casebolt was not with her Wednesday because he was concerned about death threats he and his family have received.
She said he was “sad” that he was no longer a police officer, which had been his “lifelong” dream.
Peaceful demonstrations in support of and against Casebolt and McKinney police continued all day Wednesday at McKinney police headquarters.
National Bar Association President Pamela Meanes called for an overhaul of police training, including tighter use-of-force and de-escalation training and laws.
Meanes, a partner with Thompson Coburn in St. Louis, leads the association of black lawyers and judges.
Other protestors demanded that Casebolt be criminally charged rather than allowed to resign.
The attorney for Becton said that stress is no excuse for the officer’s behavior.
“There are appropriate ways to handle stress,” Hannah Stroud said at a separate news conference. “That was not one of them.”
Stroud, with Philips Epperson in McKinney, said her client believes she did nothing wrong, that she was invited to the pool party and was obeying Casebolt’s commands to leave. Becton was asking for her bag to call her aunt just before she was grabbed by Casebolt.
Stroud said Becton is still “shaken up,” is homebound and on “Internet lockdown.” She said Becton did not see the video until Tuesday.
“She’s a real sweet kid,” Stroud said. “She’s having a hard time eating and sleeping.”
Stroud said her client’s civil rights were violated and that Casebolt used excessive force. She declined to say if a lawsuit would follow or if race was a motivating factor.
“I’m going to give the political answer and say I hope race was not a part in what happened,” she said.

From Courthouse News.

McKinney Police Officer Resigns After Viral Video

June 10, 2015
By David Lee
MCKINNEY, Texas (CN) – The white police officer who was filmed pulling a gun on black teenagers at a pool party resigned Tuesday after putting the wealthy Dallas suburb of McKinney in the national spotlight.
McKinney police Cpl. Eric Casebolt, 41, turned in his badge and submitted a two-word resignation letter on Tuesday: “I resign.” It comes two days after Casebolt was placed on administrative leave.
A 7-minute video uploaded Saturday showed Casebolt and 11 other officers responding to calls of fights and uninvited guests at a privately owned community swimming pool at the Craig Ranch master planned community. The video quickly went viral and brought national attention to the affluent suburb and to the issues of police brutality and racial profiling.
McKinney, pop. 143,200, about 30 miles northeast of Dallas, is 64 percent white, according to city-data.com. Its median household income of $79,171 is 56 percent above the statewide median of $50,740.
Casebolt is shown angrily screaming profanity at only the black male teenagers, telling them to get on the ground, while he repeatedly yells at a group of teenage girls to leave.
He is shown wrestling a 14-year-old black girl to the ground. Several teenagers are shown crying and screaming while surrounding Casebolt, who unholsters his service weapon and appears to point it at the two black male teenagers closest to him, who run away.
Casebolt then reholsters his gun and pins the screaming girl to the ground with his knees. She can be heard repeatedly asking for her mother .
Police Chief Greg Conley explicitly criticized Casebolt for the first time Tuesday. He told reporters Casebolt’s actions were “indefensible.”
“Our policies, our training and our practice do not support his actions,” Conley said at a news conference announcing the resignation. “He came into the call out of control and as the video shows was out of control during the incident. I had 12 officers on scene and 11 of them performed according to their training and they did an excellent job.”
One of the officers is seen touching Casebolt on the arm after Casebolt pulled his gun, apparently calming him. Casebolt then reholstered his gun.
Conley said Casebolt will keep his pension and benefits, but could face criminal charges, depending on the results of the police department’s investigation.
He said the department is “held to a high standard of action as we do our jobs,” but the chief criticized people at the pool who violated community rules and disrespected a security guard and police officers there.
News reports allege several black teenagers who were denied entry to the pool jumped the fence and some white parents at the pool told them they were not welcome, one woman allegedly telling them to “go back to your Section 8 housing.”
An unidentified woman accused of starting a fight that led to police involvement has been placed on administrative leave by her employer, financial services firm CoreLogic.
“CoreLogic does not condone violence, discrimination or harassment and takes conduct that is inconsistent with our values and expectations very seriously,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. “As a result of these pending allegations, we have placed the employee in question on administrative leave while further investigations take place.”
Mayor Brian Loughmiller tried to distance the city from Casebolt, telling reporters “the actions of any one individual do not define us as a community.”
Casebolt has not commented on the incident or his resignation. The McKinney Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 107 spoke out on his behalf on Monday, denying that race played a role in the incident.

From Courthouse News.