After protests led to the resignation of a police officer caught on video assaulting and pulling his gun on black teens at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, advocacy groups are now calling for the officer to be charged.
“The reason we showed up here is, America has been talking about how ‘horrible’ these teens were,” Pamela Meanes, president of the National Bar Association, told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth at a press conference. “When I was growing up I wasn’t a perfect child. I did some things I probably wasn’t proud of, but I’m a lawyer today because the system I grew up in had some grace and it had some mercy. The first thought wasn’t to send me to the detention center, it was to send me to the principal’s office.”
The National Bar Association, described as “the nation’s oldest and largest national association of predominantly African American lawyers and judges,” along with the North Texas Civil Rights Project, the Next Generation Action Network, the Dallas Chapter of the NAACP, the Nation of Islam, and Black Lawyers for Justice held the press conference on the afternoon of June 10 outside the McKinney Police Department.
The groups demanded that action be taken at the local, state and federal levels to retrain police officers, pass stricter laws against police brutality, and hold police officers accountable for overuse of force. They also demanded that Eric Casebolt, the white officer caught on video slamming a black teenage girl on the ground and pulling his gun on two black teenage boys on June 5, be charged for his actions.
“We came here today saying McKinney’s not a moment,” Meanes told CBS Dallas-Forth Worth. “This is a movement.” Before she spoke, Meanes laid face down on the ground motionless in order illustrate how the incident could have ended.
The original incident occurred last Saturday around 7:15 p.m. at the Craig Ranch community pool in McKinney. Police officers were called to respond to a “disturbance involving multiple juveniles at the location, who do not live in the area or have permission to be there, refusing to leave,” police told Buzzfeed in a now-deleted Facebook post.
Tatiana Rhodes, a 19-year-old girl from the Craig Ranch community who organized the pool party as an end-of-the-school-year celebration, stated that the disturbance began when some white adults began insulting and making racially derogatory remarks to the black teens present at the party, referencing a form of federal housing assistance for low-income people known as “Section 8” housing.
“This lady was saying racial slurs to some friends that came to the cookout,” Rhodes told photojournalist Elroy Johnson IV in a video posted online. “She was saying such things as ‘black effer’ and ‘that’s why you live in Section 8 homes.’”
Rhodes said that after insults were exchanged, two white adult women then attacked her in a fight also captured on video.
Some of the teens had also hopped the fence into the party which caused some near-by McKinney residents to call the police.
When police finally arrived on the scene, many of the teens, even those who had not been involved in the fight, scattered and ran. The now-infamous video then shows Eric Casebolt allegedly doing barrel rolls, cursing, roughing up the black teens, grabbing 15-year-old Dejerria Becton, throwing her to the ground, and pulling his gun on two teenage black boys who came to Becton’s aid.
Brandon Brooks, a 15-year-old white boy, recorded the whole incident on his phone and uploaded it to YouTube. The video soon went viral and outrage ensued over Casebolt’s behavior. Despite denials by some McKinney residents, both Brooks and 14-year-old Grace Stone, the only white person placed in handcuffs during the incident, insist that race played a part in the behavior of some white adults and the police towards the black teens.
“The parents said that we were cursing at them and stuff, which never happened at all,” Brooks told CW33. “They kept on giving us a hard time. I think it’s personal because there was a bunch of African Americans in that neighborhood who all came to the pool on the same day.”
Protests then came to McKinney as hundreds of people gathered on June 8 and marched from Comstock Elementary School to the community pool where the incident occurred, blocking traffic and chanting “We Can’t Swim? You Can’t Drive!,” “Let’s Go Swimming!,” and “No Justice! No Peace!” The protest lasted for about an hour and included calls for Casebolt to be fired and charged with assault. McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller and Police Chief Greg Conley soon denounced Casebolt’s behavior as well.
Casebolt then resigned. His lawyer, Jane Bishkin, explained on June 10 that her client had responded to two suicide calls before the pool party and that those calls had taken an “emotional toll” on him.
“With all that happened that day, he allowed his emotions to get the better of him,” she told NBC Dallas-Forth Worth. “Eric regrets that his conduct portrayed him and his department in a negative light. He never intended to mistreat anyone, but was only reacting to a situation and the challenges it presented.”
She also explained that he apologizes if his actions offended anyone and that he was not targeting minorities since he also handcuffed Grace Stone, a white teenage girl. Stone says she was cuffed only after trying to speak up and defend her black friends.
Bishkin also claimed that Casebolt had gone into hiding due to death threats.
Meanwhile, Hannah Stroud, the lawyer of the girl Casebolt threw to the ground, also held a press conference on June 10 asking for calm and continued investigations into Casebolt’s actions. She and her client plan to decide soon what steps to take going forward.
“It is our hope that the City of McKinney will do the right thing here, and we believe that they will,” she told NBC Dallas-Forth Worth. “We are also ready to pursue the necessary courses or avenues if we have to. There are several and at this time we’re still fact-finding so we don’t know which avenues we will choose to go down.”