Initial political-media narrative does not withstand scrutiny.
If you hadn’t already heard the internet roar, there is outrage brewing at the use-of-force by police in McKinney, Texas.
The biggest driver of outrage appears to be a ~13 minute cell phone video.
Here’s that video in its entirety, but I call out specific relevant portions below if you don’t want to sit through the whole thing:
I watched the video expectantly for the claimed police misconduct.
One would think from Twitter comments regarding McKinney that the police dropped uninvited onto a placid pool party of little children to wreak havoc on the festivities.
Is that what really happened? Is that even vaguely credible?
So what DID happen?
Much insight can be found from the reporting of Breitbart reporter Bob Price in his post Video Emerges Of Violence At ‘Innocent Pool Party’ In Mckinney, Texas. I encourage you to read the whole thing, as they say, and I’ll just touch on some key points here that shed considerable context on the events in McKinney. (Then I’ll come back to the video above.)
Price reports that far from the police dropping onto a placid children’s pool party, the neighborhood pool in the McKinney subdivision was the scene of violence before the police were ever on the scene–indeed, that violence was why the police were called in the first place.
Here’s a brief video clip of one such violent event (note: at one point the camera is turned 90 degrees–I used video software to re-rotate it):
Indeed, the situation at the McKinney pool had grown completely out of control. Vast numbers of the mob trying to gain access to the pool were not invitees of the neighborhood residents, but rather were responding to postings made on various social media outlets.
Those who were not invited guests were rightfully denied access by the pool management, and many of these refused to comply with this lawful denial of access.
Of those denied access, some number began to scale the fence surrounding the pool, thus affirmatively becoming illegal trespassers subject to arrest.
Combine that existing violent environment with scores of trespassers who refused to comply with even the simplest police orders, such as to disperse or sit down, and the potential for a tragic loss of innocent live becomes evident.
Bryan Gestner, quoted extensively in the Breitbart piece (my source for this quote) as a witness of the events, posted to Facebook:
This was a Twitter party that turned into a mob event. Jumping pool fence. Assaulting 2 security guards, attacking a mother with three little girls. The video doesn’t show everything. This isn’t about race. This is about outside kids invading our neighborhood and had no respect for authority or the residents here. I have a target on my back now and I have been threatened by these punks that they are gonna shoot up my house when all I did was try to control the mob and actually tended to the girl and the boy that had a bloody lip. Yall don’t know the whole story. I commend the officer for handling this situation.
Gestner also reports that the the purported children at the purported pool party were drinking alcohol and “smoking weed,” and also that some of the mob returned to McKinney the following night (Saturday), at which time they were “kicking in people’s front door, stole a truck and crashed it into many vehicles. They vandalized dozens of cars and were stealing things.”
So, that’s some of the context into which the police found themselves immersed when they were dispatched to the scene in response to resident 911 calls.
Doesn’t much sound like simply some children having a pool party, does it?
In any case, let’s begin taking peeks at the video and see what we can see.
Note that already at the start of the video the mob has been ordered to disperse and leave the area. This is, of course, a perfectly lawful order by the handful of police on scene who are having to deal with crowd–at least some of whom are reportedly violent, drunk and/or stoned. The first thing they need to do is establish the security of the scene, and that’s best done by dispersing the mob that has led to the disorder in the first place.
The video noted above begins with the police in pursuit of some unseen person, beginning with Officer Eric Casebolt, who appears to trip. Officer Casebolt will soon become the central focus of the video.
Knowing that patrol officers typically are carrying as much as 30 pounds of gear on their belts, I can assure you that they do not engage in a high-speed foot pursuit unless there’s a darned good reason. In any case, a foot pursuit is not unlawful police conduct.
You’ll notice that despite having been lawfully ordered to disperse, much of the
ground group has refused to do so, and are still milling about the area. With verbal orders to disperse having failed to achieve the goal of improving the safety of the scene, the police next escalate to the next step of the force continuum, which is to simply order the crowd members to sit in place.
Some members of the crowd comply with this order to take a seat. Others again refuse to comply, thus authorizing the police to escalate to the next step of the force continuum, which is to use non-deadly physical force to compel compliance. Casebolt also uses stern language.
None of this is unlawful police conduct.
Casebolt then again tells a group of girls standing on the sidewalk to disperse. Again, they refuse to comply with this lawful order. In fact, they’ll remain pretty much right there throughout the entirety of the video.
Notably, one of those girls is Dajerria Becton, wearing a bright orange/yellow bathing suit. She’ll become the center of interest for those claiming police misconduct.
Bectom actually casually steps away from her group, stands in the midst of the crowd members just ordered to sit on the ground by police, shouts to friends across the street, and then wanders off the left side of the screen, apparently towards those friends.
She essentially acts no differently than would a person who is not in the midsts of a police action.
Regardless, at this point she’s doing fine. Her group had been ordered to disperse, and it looks like she’s doing just that.
Unfortunately, less than one minute later Bectom’s back with her group, and still non-compliant with lawful police orders to disperse, as you can see in the background here.
Casebolt, who had previously ordered the girls to disperse, repeats his orders. A portion of the group does disperse off to the left. Bectom appears to be dispersing off to the right, but in fact never moves more than 10 or so feet away, stopping at that point to continue engaging with other members of the non-compliant crowd.
At this point Casebolt notes that Bectom has refused to comply with multiple lawful orders to disperse. These multiple efforts to encourage compliance with verbal commands having proven ineffective, he appropriately increases his use of force to physically compel compliance.
It is this portion of the video that the Progressive left appears to find most mind-blowing.
The only explanation for this is that they are so entirely ignorant of the role of police in society that they don’t understand that the police are authorized by that society to use force to compel compliance with lawful orders.
And while many, even those who typically support the police, may find observing a uniformed officer use physical force on a non-compliant bikini girl, the fact that a use of force may appear distasteful does not make that use of force unlawful.
In fact, Casebolt is entirely within the law in his use of non-deadly force to compel compliance with lawful commands.
And Bectom is entirely outside the law in her immediate and sustained physical resistance to the officer’s lawful use of force. She is, literally, committing a crime in doing so.
At this point the members of the Bectom’s crowd that had dispersed rushes back to the scene. Indeed several actually lean over the officer as he is attempting to lawfully subdue Bectom.
It is not a good idea to lean over an officer when he’s trying to subdue your friend. He’s likely to perceive it as a threat and urge you to stop. And, indeed, in this case Casebolt shoves the encroaching girls back.
Now THIS is where things get interesting. A girl in a bathing suit can perhaps be dealt with by a physical push. But what if others escalate the threat to the officer?
At this point in the video, however, while Casebolt is still trying to lawfully subdue the still resisting Bectom he is rushed by two males who are at least the officer’s size. The video shows no other officers in the immediate vicinity. The two males can be seen first on the right side of the screen, one wearing an aqua-colored ball cap, the other holding an aqua-colored shirt.
Even absent the remaining crowd (which is, of course, relevant, as mobs are dangerous), the mere fact that Casebolt is being charged by two males his size creates a disparity of force situation that justifies him in escalating his use of force to the deadly force level.
Indeed, the deliberate conduct of these two males in placing Casebolt in reasonable fear of death or grave bodily harm constitutes an aggravated assault on a police officer. This is a felony in all states, and in most is punishable by as much as 15 years in prison.
It is at this point, struggling to subdue a non-compliant suspect, facing two younger males rushing at him from the flank, that Casebolt reasonably perceives a potentially deadly force attack and goes to his pistol.
The two male attackers see the gun, and turn and flee. Casebolt neither shoots nor pursues, but other officers responding to the scene do initiate a pursuit and capture at least one of the attackers.
All of this is perfectly lawful conduct by Casebolt under the totality of the circumstances, and well within both his training and the law.
My advice? If you don’t want a cop to point his pistol at you, don’t rush him while he’s subduing a suspect.
Indeed, the two male attackers should count themselves fortunate that Casebolt was so slow on the trigger. With his attackers at that close proximity he would have been entirely warranted in shooting them both.
At this point Casebolt returns to Bectom, who initially continues to refuse to comply with both verbal lawful orders and physical efforts to compel her compliance.
For the remainder of the video the females who had accompanied the now compliant Bectom (better late than never, I guess) continue to refuse to comply with lawful orders to disperse, and continue to hurl verbal abuse at the officers, despite their continued orders to leave the area. The officers do not respond to the abuse.
Reports are that Casebolt is currently on administrative leave (not suspension) with pay (essentially a paid vacation) while internal affairs investigates the justification for his escalation to deadly force defense. Casebolt met with investigators earlier today. Such an administrative leave and investigation is common in many departments when an officer draws his sidearm, and is not any indication that his department believes that Casebolt acted wrongfully.
Heck this video alone all but ensures that his decision in going to his gun, as well as his use of non-deadly force on non-compliant suspects, will be deemed justified.
In a nutshell then:
Unlawful acts by the Casebolt?
Unlawful acts by the various members of the crowd?
- Refusal to comply with lawful police orders, by the whole non-compliant mob.
- Resisting, by Dajerria Bectom
- Simple assault, by Bectom’s friend who encroached on Casebolt subduing Bectom
- Aggravated assault, by each of the males who rushed at the officer while he was subduing Bectom
That’s about it for now. We will, of course, keep you advised as new facts (and falsehoods) emerge.
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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.