Former Texas officer apologizes for aggressiveness at pool party, attorney says

Texas ex-officer 'apologizes to all who were offended' by how he handled teens at pool party, attorney says

The former Dallas-area police officer criticized for aggressively handling teenagers at a pool party, shown in a viral video, has gone into hiding and "apologizes to all who were offended," his attorney said Wednesday.

McKinney Police Cpl. Eric Casebolt had been emotionally unsettled by two calls concerning suicide he had handled shortly before responding to calls of trespassing and assault at a raucous pool party Friday evening, his police union attorney, Jane Bishkin of Dallas, told reporters in a televised news conference. 

"He does recognize that his emotions got the best of him, and the prior suicide calls put him in an emotional place that he would have preferred not to been in when responding to this call," Bishkin said.

Casebolt resigned Tuesday as McKinney city officials publicly condemned the way that he cursed at unarmed teenagers, pointed his weapon at them and wrestled some to the ground, including a girl in a bikini. 

The incident stoked racial tension and prompted protests after a video made by a bystander showed Casebolt, who is white, chasing black teens in pool attire. His representatives said Wednesday that he had received several death threats and decided to resign to help cool anger in the city.

“He hopes his resignation will restore the peace in McKinney that was disturbed by this incident," Daniel Malenfant, president of the McKinney Fraternal Order of Police, told reporters Wednesday. Malenfant denounced “those set on creating racial tensions in America” and those sending “countless death threat calls and emails."

“The truth surrounding this incident will be uncovered," Malenfant said.

Casebolt's attorney tried to explain his actions through the context of the suicide cases the officer had handled shortly before going to the pool party.

In the first suicide call, a man had shot and killed himself in front of his family, including his children, and Casebolt consoled the man's wife while securing the body and the scene, said Bishkin, who noted that the dead man was African American.

In the second call, Casebolt had to calm a teenage girl who was threatening to jump off her parents' roof, and she was safely taken to a  hospital, Bishkin said.

“Eric’s compassion during these two incidents are a testament to his character," Bishkin said. “The nature of these two suicide calls took an emotional toll on Eric Casebolt."

Bishkin said Casebolt was "reluctant" to respond to an initial call of trespassing at the pool party but decided to go when he heard a report of an assault.

Casebolt's actions with the teenagers “were only an attempt to investigate reports of violent assault” and he wanted to interview “as many people as possible," Bishkin said. “He believes those who fled were possible suspects."

Casebolt also detained a white girl who did not appear on the seven-minute video of the encounter, Bishkin said. "He was not targeting minorities."

However, Bishkin said, "he apologizes to all who were offended. That day was not representative of the 10 years' service to the community of McKinney."

Bishkin said he would speak to reporters in the near future but also has to prepare for the possibility of criminal charges as investigators examine the case.

Casebolt's apology and his attorney's explanation failed to mollify the black teenager that he pinned to the ground. Dajerria Becton's attorney told the Associated Press on Wednesday evening that although her client's family appreciated the apology, stress was not an adequate defense for Casebolt's behavior.

“There are appropriate ways to handle stress, and Officer Casebolt's actions were in no way appropriate,” Hannah Stroud said. The family will decide what to do later, Stroud said, but it believes Casebolt violated Dejerria's civil rights.

On Tuesday, city officials condemned his conduct as they announced his resignation.

“Our policy, our training, our practices do not support these actions,” McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley said, calling Casebolt’s actions “indefensible.”

“He came to the call out of control,” Conley said. “I had 12 officers on the scene, and 11 of them performed according to their training.”

Officials said residents had called the police to complain about an out-of-control party and fighting. Some teenagers said they had permission to be at the pool and said residents had harassed them.

Twitter: @MattDPearce

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

8:17 p.m.: Updated to include comment from teenager's attorney.

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