Texas Officer Apologizes, Denies Race Was a Factor

6/11/2015 7:19:00 AM, 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 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 Dajerria Becton, whom Casebolt took to the ground, 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 15-year-old client believes she did nothing wrong, that she was invited to the pool party and was obeying Casebolt's commands to leave. She 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." 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.
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