Delaware policeman charged with kicking suspect in face; video released

Judge orders release of dashcam video showing white Delaware police officer kicking black suspect in the face

A dashcam video released Thursday shows a white Delaware police officer kicking a black suspect in the face, leaving him unconscious, even as the suspect appeared to be complying with police commands.

Cpl. Tom Webster of the Dover Police Department initially was cleared of wrongdoing in the 2013 incident. But he was indicted Monday on second-degree assault, a felony, after the Delaware attorney general’s office took the case to a second grand jury, according to a statement from Dover police.

Webster turned himself in Monday and was released on $5,000 bond, police said.

In the incident, Lateef Dickerson was knocked unconscious. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries suffered during his arrest, and was found to have a broken jaw, police said.

A federal judge ordered last month that the dashcam video be made public.

After the video’s release, Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen said during a news conference Thursday that protesters' rights would be honored, but “lawlessness and violence will not be tolerated."

"As mayor of the city of Dover, we all have to remember that every public employee has the responsibility to protect our community, to serve our constituents with trust and fidelity,” Christiansen said.

Dickerson was arrested Aug. 24, 2013, after police responded to a reported fight, in which one person was believed to have a gun.

The dashcam video shows Webster and another officer confronting Dickerson. The officers can been seen and heard ordering him to get on the ground. As he appears to be complying, the video shows Webster kicking him in the face. Dickerson falls flat.

“As the subject was in the process of getting on the ground, he was kicked in the head once by Webster, rendering him unconscious. After this occurred, the subject was placed in handcuffs and taken into custody,” according to a separate statement police issued Monday.

A grand jury did not initially indict Webster, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware found that Dickerson’s civil rights had not been violated, police said.

Once those investigations were complete, an internal Dover police inquiry found that Webster's actions "were outside of Dover Police Department policy, and the department took the appropriate actions,” police said.

It is unclear what those actions were. During the previous investigations, Webster had been suspended with pay. 

Thursday's police statement said he returned to full duty in June 2014  "and was reassigned to the patrol division.”

Since his indictment this week, Webster has been placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the criminal case, police said.

Webster, who has been on the Dover police force since 2005, told the News Journal on Thursday that he could not discuss the case.

"I'm under strict instructions not to discuss my life with anyone right now, unfortunately," Webster told the Journal. "We have to let this sort itself out in a legal venue."

Dover police and the Delaware attorney general’s office could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

Dover, the state capital, is about 90 miles east of Washington. It is the second-largest city in Delaware -- after Wilmington -- with a population of about 37,000. 

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