By now you've probably heard about this week's racially charged police brutality incident. A video that has since gone viral shows a black teenager in the Dallas suburb of McKinney being held down by a white officer while she cries and screams for her mother, the cop shoving her face into the ground.
If the visuals look bad, the facts behind them don't make the cop involved look much better. The incident started around 7:15 PM, when officers responded to complaints from a pool party in a planned community called Craig Ranch focused on the presence of young black people who allegedly didn't live in the area. The situation intensified quickly as attendees wrapped towels around themselves and tried to take off, while the police became increasingly agitated and forceful.
Things came to a head when the white officer who seemed to take the lead, Corporal Eric Casebolt, forced a bikini-clad 14-year-old African-American girl named Dajerria Becton to the ground, and gestured with his gun toward a group of black teens.
According to what Becton later told the media, "He grabbed me and he like twisted my arm on the back of my back. And he shoved me in the grass. He started pulling the back of my braids."
The climactic moments were filmed by a 15-year-old named Brandon Brooks. His footage focused on the erratic behavior of Casebolt, who sprints around, chasing and grabbing people, and at one point literally either dives to the ground or trips and turns the move into a roll for some reason. All the maneuvering seems to be part of an attempt to control dozens of people at once as he becomes more and more visibly emotional.
All the while, Brooks's video captured Casebolt repeating orders for teens to "get their asses down on the ground," "stop shooting [their] mouths off." He also complained that he had to "fuckin' run around with 30 pounds of goddamn gear."
Brooks, who is white, was asked on a local news broadcast whether he thought the other teens were singled out for their race, and said, "I do feel that is true." He told the interviewer, "I was one of the only white people in the area when that was happening, and you can see in part of the video where he tells us to sit down, and he kinda, like, skips over me, and tells all my African-American friends to go sit down."
There was a protest on Monday at a local elementary school organized by a civil rights group called the Next Generation Action Network. According to the Washington Post, the group has called for Casebolt to be fired.
Slogans included things like, "Don't tread on our kids," and, "My skin color is not a crime."
The McKinney Police Department claimed in a Facebook statement that the clash came about after officers encountered teens "actively fighting" and that "first responding officers encountered a large crowd that refused to comply with police commands." But Casebolt has been suspended during an inquiry into the incident. McKinney Police Chief Greg Conely has conceded that "several concerns about the conduct of one of the officers at the scene have been raised."
One witness who refused to be identified told CNN on Monday that she's on Casebolt's side, and that she supports "him drawing his weapon, or a Taser or whatever it was that he did pull, because he was being attacked from behind," adding "he probably didn't intend on using it." She added that the cop "deserves a medal for what he did."
Another professed witness named Michael Quattrin claims that the trouble started when too many people showed up to the party. "A DJ setup in a public space next to the private pool in our neighborhood on Friday and played loud explicit (F-bomb) music for multiple hours," he wrote in a Facebook note. Quattrin went on in the post to claim that teens "were being brought into our neighborhood by the carload because the DJ was tweeting out invites to a 'pool party' for $15 (obviously unauthorized by our neighborhood)."
He claims the teens then started fighting. But while video exists of what looks like a fight, it's not between two teens. Instead, it shows a middle-aged white woman fighting a younger woman.
Brooks did acknowledge in the local news interview that security kept trying to get him to leave the pool party because he didn't have the right documentation. "The security guard immediately had a problem with us being there," he conceded. Guards, he added, told Brooks and his friends that they "needed more cards because there's a two-guests-per-card rule or whatever."
Jahda Bakari, an African-American teen who was a resident of the area—and had a pool pass—claims she was chased by the cops, in contrast to Brooks. "They were trying to make us leave, but if we ran, they'd chase after us, and if we stayed, then they'd arrest us," she told the local CBS affiliate.
Self-styled radio personality Benet Embry, another African-American resident of the neighborhood, posted a controversial message on Facebook (which has since been removed) that reads, "A few thugs spoiled a community event by fighting, jumping over fences into a private pool, harassing and damaging property. Not everything is about race."
McKinney was Money magazine's number one-ranked place to live in America in 2014; it's a predominantly white city in which African Americans make up 11 percent of the population. A 2008 lawsuit alleged the McKinney Housing Authority kept the city largely segregated by relegating its federally-subsidized Section 8 housing to the east of highway 75. A consent decree the next year was supposed to change that, though the area west of the highway remains lily white. (America, of course, has a robust history of racism at pools, with private ones cropping up mostly after public pools were desegregated.)
The incident appears to have ignited those long-running racial tensions: A neighborhood woman allegedly shouted, "That's why you live in Section 8 homes!" at party host Tatiana Rhodes, and Rhodes claims sometime during that barrage of slurs, the neighbors slapped her, and a fight began.
She also claims that someone called her a "black effer."
Adrian Martin, one of the teens in the video who drew Casebolt's ire by coming up behind him, was the only person arrested; he was charged with interfering with an officer and evading arrest. His attorney, Heath Harris, told a local FOX affiliate that "all he wanted to do was make sure she knew [Becton] wasn't out there by herself."
Weighing in about the moment Casebolt unholstered his gun, Robert Taylor, a criminology professor at the University of Texas Dallas, told the Associated Press, "That's not the way we're trained," and, "We're trained in policing to de-escalate problem encounters like this." He added that, "Obviously, that officer lost his cool. No doubt about it."
Others have criticized Casebolt as well, including a former McKinney officer named Pete Schutle, who was interviewed by the local Fox affiliate. The anchor pointed out that in the video, it looks like Becton may have said something salty to Officer Casebolt.
Schulte countered, "We have this saying, that we can't be offended because we're also the law. We're not individuals. Anything would not have justified throwing her to the ground and pushing her down and throwing her face into the concrete like he did."
Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.