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Teenage Girl Sues Police Officer Who Pushed Her Down at Pool Party

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At a pool party in 2015, white police officer David Eric Casebolt slammed black teenager Dajerria Becton to the ground and pinned her down with his knee. Now she has sued him, as well as the city and police department, for the psychological damage the incident caused her, citing excessive force and seeking $5 million in damages. Becton was only 15 at the time and was an invited guest to the party, which took place in a predominantly white neighborhood in McKinney, Texas. Another black teenager, Tatiana Rhodes, and her mother were organizing a cookout at a community pool as an end of the school year get-together for classmates. They live in the area.

A cellphone video that went viral shows Becton starting to walk away from the situation after police officers show up, but Casebolt runs over to her and pins her to the ground with a knee in her back. He also pulls her hair and shoves her face down in the ground while she pleads to see her mother. When some boys come up and tell the officer to let her go, he draws his gun at the unarmed teenagers. Many who saw the video thought it was clear that Casebolt overreacted, and he resigned from his position within a few days.

Rhodes, the girl who organized the party, said that it all started when a couple of white women at the pool started aiming racial slurs at the teenagers, calling them names, and saying that they should go back to their Section 8 homes. One woman even reportedly slapped Rhodes in the face. In a Youtube video interview with Rhodes, her mother criticized the grown women for harassing children rather than talking to the parents. At some point during the party, someone called the police and claimed that a group of teenagers from out of town had showed up and started a fight. But the Rhodes family said that only classmates who were invited attended the party.

Becton’s lawyer Kim T. Cole said Thursday that the incident affected Becton psychologically and that she is struggling in school. She said, “I would hope that at a certain point she gets some counseling and kind of regains her life and confidence. Emotionally, she is a wreck.” Cole said that the physical injuries–abrasions, head and neck injuries—have healed, but that the emotional scars will remain. Becton has since received repeated threats, been the victim of cyberbullying, and become a target at her school. Cole also said that Becton is afraid to call the police if anything happens to her, as she doesn’t trust law enforcement officers now.

The lawsuit cites excessive force, assault, and unlawful detention. But a spokeswoman from the city of McKinney denied all the allegations and wrote in a statement that the McKinney Police Department will defend itself vigorously. Casebolt’s lawyer, Jane Bishkin, said that he “let his emotions get the best of him.” He was allegedly stressed after responding to two suicide calls right before arriving at the pool party, one where a man had shot himself in front of his family and one where Casebolt managed to talk a teenage girl out of jumping from a roof. After resigning, he and his family received death threats and had to move to an undisclosed location.

Casebolt was also sued back in 2008 for allegedly abusing a black driver, Albert Earl Brown Jr., who claimed that the officer had yanked his pants down to his ankles during a roadside search. Brown said he was being racially profiled, and that Casebolt told a white woman who was in his car that she had made a mistake by hanging out with him. The case was dismissed as Brown had marijuana in his car and was jailed. But the fact that Casebolt has been at the center of two separate racial incidents has many believing this runs more deeply than misunderstandings or stress.

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at EVonZeipel@LawStreetMedia.com.

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