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World & Nation

Grand jury doesn’t charge Texas police officer in pool party incident

Texas police protest
Protesters demonstrate last summer after the incident at a community pool involving police officers in McKinney, Texas.
(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)

A grand jury has declined to charge a Texas police officer who drew his gun on unarmed teenagers at a pool party and threw a 15-year-old girl in a bikini to the ground, officials said Thursday.

Cpl. Eric Casebolt resigned a year ago this month. He was suspended after the release of a video in which he can be seen aggressively confronting black teenagers in McKinney, a Dallas suburb.

The bystander’s video, which garnered millions of views on YouTube, showed Casebolt shouting and cursing at teenagers who did not appear to be acting violently or aggressively. Casebolt, who is white, wrestled some black youths to the ground. 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.

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Protesters called for Casebolt’s firing. While city officials condemned the officer’s conduct, he was allowed to resign and keep his pension and benefits. The episode fed a national furor over police mistreatment of African Americans.

At one point in the video, Casebolt walked up to the 15-year-old in a bikini and wrestled her to the sidewalk, forcing her head down with his hand. Kim T. Cole, a Dallas-area lawyer representing the girl, Dajerria Becton, and her family, said the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer was “no surprise.”

“We currently live in a time in which the public servants who are hired to protect and serve are not required to uphold the very law they are sworn to enforce,” Cole said. “The message is clear. Police are above the law. This must change. They must be held accountable.”

Casebolt’s attorney, Tom Mills, said the former officer was “very happy” about the grand jury’s decision.

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“I’m sure other people are disappointed, but what was presented in the media is not the full picture of what happened. The videos make it seem so bad, that he’s grabbing the girl and throwing her on the ground out of nowhere,” he said. “Our position was that he had a duty to arrest for criminal trespassing and when she resisted, he had to pull her back.”

On Monday the McKinney Police Department announced a meeting with community leaders called “Moving Forward: Strengthening Police and Community Relationships.”

“Through this forum, we aim to establish another line of communication with citizens to hear directly what they would like to see from their police department,” said Police Chief Greg Conley, who is scheduled to attend. “By having citizens working in cooperation with police, we can begin to solve problems in our community.”

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Times staff writer Jaweed Kaleem in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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