NEW: Attorney: Teen who was thrown to the ground's civil rights were violated
Suicide calls earlier that day took an "emotional toll" on the officer, his attorney says
McKinney's police chief says the officer's actions in the video are "indefensible"
There’s more to Eric Casebolt than the video that showed the former police corporal slamming a bikini-clad teenage girl to the ground in McKinney, Texas, his lawyer told reporters Wednesday.
And there’s more to that day than those seven minutes caught on video, attorney Jane Bishkin said.
“The video that everyone has seen only depicts a small part of Eric’s actions that day,” Bishkin said, noting that Casebolt had responded to two suicide calls earlier Friday.
Casebolt resigned on Tuesday, days after a YouTube video showing his response to reports of fighting at a McKinney pool party sparked swift allegations of racism.
Critics decried the white officer for cursing at several black teenagers, unholstering and waving his gun at boys and throwing the 14-year-old girl to the ground, his knees pressed down on her back.
Bishkin said the suicide calls Casebolt dealt with earlier in his shift that day took an “emotional toll” on the 10-year veteran of the force.
The officer’s first stop of the day was an apartment complex, where a man had shot himself in the head in front of his family by the pool. Then, he headed to a home where a teenage girl was threatening to jump off her parents’ roof. There, Casebolt helped calm the girl down so she could be taken to the hospital, Bishkin said.
When reports of possible trespassing at a pool in McKinney’s Craig Ranch neighborhood came through, Casebolt was “reluctant to respond … given what he had just been through,” his attorney said. But he felt it was duty to go to the scene after there were reports of “possible violent assaults,” she said. The video tells some of the story, but not all of it, his attorney said.
“With all that happened that day, he allowed his emotions to get the better of him,” Bishkin said. “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. He apologizes to all who are offended. That day was not representative of the 10-year service to the community of McKinney, and it is his hope that by his resignation the community may start to heal.”
His attorney said that race had nothing to do with how the officer responded.
“He believed that those who fled were possible suspects,” Bishkin said. “He was not targeting minorities. In fact, he also detained a white female who you do not see on the video. His effort to gather information was hampered by some teenagers who were instructing others to defy police instructions.”
Bishkin said the former officer didn’t appear at a press conference Wednesday because he’s faced death threats since the video went viral.
“He’s worried for his family. He’s worried he may be followed,” she said. “And until that threat subsides, he’s going to be in an undisclosed location.”
Police chief: He was out of control
Only one person was arrested after Friday’s incident, and the charges against him were later dropped, police said Tuesday.
McKinney’s police chief has called Casebolt’s actions “indefensible,” but said it’s too soon to say whether the former officer will face charges over what happened.
“Our policies, our training, our practice, do not support his actions,” Chief Greg Conley said. “He came into the call out of control, and as the video shows, was out of control during the incident.”
While the police chief said Casebolt’s actions were clearly unjustified, opinions vary as to whether race played a role.
The police union defended the former officer.
“He was a dedicated and decorated officer who in this instance was placed in a high-stress environment that he was not fully prepared for,” Daniel Malenfant of the McKinney Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #107 told reporters, noting that Casebolt had won an “officer of the year” award in the past for his service.
Tackled girl: ‘My back was hurting bad’
Dajerria Becton, the girl seen taken to the ground by Casebolt, told local station KDFW she had obeyed the officer’s order to leave.
“He told me to keep walking,” she said. “And I kept walking, and then I’m guessing he thought we were saying rude stuff to him.”
That’s when things got physical, she said.
“He grabbed me, twisted my arm on my back and shoved me in the grass and started pulling the back of my braids,” Becton told KDFW.
In the video, the officer places her hands behind her and kneels on her back.
“I was telling him to get off me because my back was hurting bad,” Becton said.
Becton wasn’t charged, McKinney police said.
An attorney representing Becton said the 15-year-old has been having a hard time and sleeping and eating since the incident. She’s shaken by what happened – and by all the media attention that has turned the once-anonymous teenager into a face seen around the world, attorney Hannah Stroud told reporters.
Stroud said police violated Becton’s civil rights, but she’s still investigating what happened and trying to decide on her next steps.
At this point, one thing is clear, she said: Casebolt’s resignation shouldn’t put an end to the police investigation.
And no matter how difficult the officer’s day was before he came to the pool, she said, nothing justifies how he responded.
“Each of us operates under stress. There are appropriate ways to handle stress,” she said, “and Officer Casebolt’s actions were clearly in no way appropriate, and they also do not provide a defense for what occurred.”
CNN’s Nick Valencia, Jason Morris, Christopher Lett and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.