A Delaware police officer has been acquitted of kicking a Black man in the face and breaking his jaw during a 2013 arrest.
The Dover Post reports a jury deliberated for about 16 hours over the fate of Dover police Cpl. Thomas Webster IV. The officer was accused of kicking Lateef Dickerson, then 29, in the face during an arrest in August 2013. Webster testified he intended to target Dickerson in his lower body, fearing he was carrying a weapon.
Dickerson was restrained by Webster after he ran from another cop during a fight that broke out near a local gas station. Webster was later charged with a single count of felony second-degree assault. He was also suspended and placed on paid leave in 2013 while a civil rights investigation was launched.
Race, language, and police practices were some of the biggest talking points in the case. Webster’s lawyers argued that while the officer’s actions were accidental, kicking is a standard move to restrain a suspect. Prosecutors attempted to prove Dickerson wasn’t a threat to the officer and Webster used reckless and excessive force.
The jury also ruled Webster was not guilty of a smaller charge of misdemeanor assault.
Protesters as young as 16 held signs outside the courthouse in favor of Dickerson. La Mar Gunn, president of the Central Delaware branch of the NAACP, called the ruling a setback in the community, while Fred Calhoun, president of the Delaware chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said residents have a lot of faith in the area’s law enforcement.
“I think that it’s going to go a long way with my brothers and sisters that society has shown, at least in Dover, that they have had enough of being bullied and they have faith in the police and the job we do,” Calhoun said.
Webster’s employment status with the department will be reviewed by Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat.